Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Race and a Dance

With a summer filled with four triathlons, I was staring at the fall marathon calendar and realized this run junkie needed at least one more major race before going into my "off season."  I'm still trying to figure out what the hell an "off season" is, because I'm not sure I've ever had one.  Regardless, with my last race in September, I knew that with all my virtual and real running friends "geeking" out over Chicago and New York, I would need a fix.  With that, I signed up last minute for the Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon this last weekend.  I knew that running a marathon was out of the question since it has been nearly four months since I've run anything even close to 20 miles.  I had run the half before it was converted to a "Rock and Roll" and figured "what the heck!"
Post Race Bling.  RnR knows how to do bling.

I discounted the fact that I spent the last three months splitting time between running, swimming and cycling.  Despite the fact that Denver added a "bike tour" for the gear heads that wanted to ride the course before runners, my time in the water and in a saddle would do nothing more than provide a base level of conditioning.  Two weeks out from Denver, I figured I had better get in at least a nine mile run which I did.  If you look at my runs over the summer, I've largely focused on speed, but have been implementing some heart rate runs to counter the ones where it feels like "Alien" is bursting out my white t-shirt chest.

So...triathlon training plan for the idea how I'd problem.

The nice thing about a hometown race is just jet lag...and sleeping in your own bed.  I hit the expo on Friday and left a hundred dollars lighter after picking up my bib number.  I still get excited with expos as you can't help but get amped up for the race that weekend.  Based on my estimated half time, I was placed in corral number one.  That can't be.  Considering the corrals were mixed with fulls and half runners (did I really just call myself half a runner?) it made sense.  One of my purchases from the expo was a new pair of CEP compression socks.  My left leg (yes...long history of crap on my left side vs. the crap out my back side...more on that later) was still feeling some shin splint action so I wanted a full sock.  Neon green...oh yeah...they'll see me coming for miles with those bad boys on.

Worst race picture ever, but had to document the VIP Potty.
Men's bathroom pictures are a bad idea
Having traveled to Chicago earlier in the week (another race pattern I can't seem to avoid,) I was exhausted by Friday night so there were no issues getting to bed early for the 4:30 AM wake-up call.  Only race eve issue was my wife was invited to a friend's birthday party and we had my son and daughter's homecoming game.  The exciting part of the later was that my daughter was nominated for Homecoming Queen (further proof that she's not mine) which I was NOT going to miss.  It was a special evening and worth another blog post.  Upon getting home, my wife was still out at the birthday party when it was time for bed.  Uh-oh.  I did my best trying to get to sleep with one eye subliminally staring at the clock wondering when she'd get home.  Not one to miss a party, I was wondering what fun I was missing. She got home at a decent hour, but wine tends to create snoring.  Scheisse.

I had plotted my timetable to get downtown along with laying out everything I needed for the "mary" the night before.  Morning ritual was routine and I found a free parking spot less than a mile south of the event's epicenter.  One of the smartest things I ever did for a race was get a Brooks Pee Like a Rock Star pass.  Considering my history of (ahem) race day issues, I felt this would be worth it.  #understatement  All I had to do was spend $100 at Runner's Roost on Brooks product and the pass was mine.  A "no brainer."  The rock star toilet was a trailer that was heated with running water.  Condiments lined the bathroom sink.  I'd rate this number two event a number one.
My "O" face.
I ran into a number of run friends and started to get into my zone, but was quite relaxed.  I snapped a couple Instagram pix before checking my bag and heading to the corral.  I was happy to run into one of my running group buddies (Erik) who bought a full marathon bib, but wasn't sure whether he'd run the full or the half.  We caught up on recent races and figured we'd start out the first mile or so together.  The most ironic part of the start is that the Colorado Rockies skipper, Jim Tracy, fired the starting gun.  That's an ironic choice and juxtaposition of words ( considering he could be gone after the colossal failure of the Rockies this year.

Prior to the gun, Erik asked what my goal was.  1:35 to 1:40 was the answer.  I knew a PR was not happening on this course without really training (1:32,) but I wanted to improve my previous time on this course of 1:37.  Erik had planned to go out at a 8 minute mile and speed up.  I had powered up my Garmin to hone in on the satellite prior to the race but it had gone back to sleep by the time Tracy's gun had gone off (#rookie.)  Adrenaline caught the best of us and we went out sub-seven minutes.  My Garmin actually showed my first half mile at an 11:15 pace but it was still seeking a signal.

I liked the course layout as the initial miles are through Denver's downtown streets and LODO district.  I was feeling pretty good and kept my seven minute pace and separated from Erik.  I think he understood although I felt rude without even a "I'm pushing ahead," or "have a good race."  I probably blew some run etiquette rule there.  My race strategy was quite unconventional, but figured I would try and average a seven minute mile pace until mile nine or ten.  Even slowing to an eight minute mile pace the last few miles would allow me to hit my goal.  At least in marathons, I've never been able to run a negative split.

I had two other things I was going to try in this race. One was more frequent gel fueling and secondly, implementing a few walk breaks through water stations.  Having done quite a bit of speed work this summer, I would often run Yasso's (800M intervals) with recovery intervals at walk or much slower pace.  My net times even with recovery were overall pretty fast.  I'm not quite sure, but I believe I had four such breaks and took in Hammer Huckleberry gels every couple of miles with a smaller portion.  It seemed to work for me although I'd later question the impact on my overall time given the short walk breaks.
I love pix where it looks like I'm floating.
I also love passing younger racers at the finish.

The second attractive part of the half marathon course is that it runs through two of Denver's urban parks, City Park and Cheesman Park--the later had a bit of a climb.  The course is fairly flat, but has an overall climb of 774 feet.  Once I got through the second park my math was a bit clouded but I knew I was well within reach of my goal for the day.  For the first time in a race my last two miles picked up the pace.  My last full half mile interval was at a 7:15 pace and the last 4/10 mile was at a blistering 6:17 pace.  I felt great and the somewhat downhill finish and crowd adrenaline helped.  My good friend Jim shouted encouragement somewhere around mile 11-12.  I didn't see him, but heard his encouragement (thanks Jim.)  As I normally try to do, I kicked it in towards the finish and passed a couple runners in the last 100 yards.  I finished with a 1:36:18.  My Garmin had me at 1:35, but I clearly fumbled the Garmin start as I indicated before.  Good enough for a course record and 11th in my age group.  For such a large race, I'll take that.

To top off the fantastic day, my oldest brother flew into town to surprise me since he wasn't able to catch my big birthday party over the summer.  We celebrated in Evergreen Saturday night and gathered to watch some football on Sunday.  As I was sitting on the sofa waiting for football to start, I reveled in the race, the evening, and watching my daughter with pride walk on the football field as captain of her poms team to accept her royalty nomination.  Wondering how this weekend could get any better, I got a Sunday morning email from the BAA.  This was not the "Dear John" you're fast enough to qualify, but not fast enough to get in letter, but an acceptance into the 2013 Boston (frickin') Marathon.  My daughter had her dance and dad is going back to one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rocky Road: A Chicago Nascar Night

"If the house is a rockin' don't bother knockin'" (Stevie Ray Vaughan)

[warning:  this blog contains adult content which may not be suitable for children, or my parents.]

I wrote a blog awhile back (Planes, Training, and Automobiles) that was about the challenges of training on the road. I am in sales in an industry that requires heavy travel.  Yes, I'm a "traveling salesman" but I don't sell shower rings and don't hold it against me.

My travel plans took me to Chicago last week and I plotted a flight that would get me in early enough to get an evening swim in and a planned early run the next morning.  I had no client or colleague dinner plans that night so everything was on track. I checked my iPhone for a nearby 24 Hour Fitness, but there were none to be found. Scheisse. Why there are no "24 hours" in Chicago must have some mafia-related reason or tied to the same reason that for years, the only coffee you could get in New Jersey was from Dunkin Donuts. I don't get the "big deal" with Dunkin Donuts coffee either.

No 24 Hour Fitness meant getting the swim in at the hotel pool. Just like hotel beds and hotel gyms, the pools range from crappy to creepy to country club-like.  I had none of those options, but I did have a short pool that was around 30 feet in length. About half the length of the regulation pools I'm used to without the ropes and blue lines to guide my path.

The Marriott Residence Inn was serving up burgers and cocktails as it was getting dark adjacent to the poorly lit pool. I got the job done with 100 lengths of the shortened pool. The main issue I had was I continued to jam my fingers into the wall not being used to such a short and dark pool.

As the revelers got drunk poolside I was swimming like one as I was veering all over the place in the near dark water. After the swim, I did grab a burger but skipped the beer before heading off to bed. I had an early heart rate run before a breakfast meeting and a long day so it was "early to bed."

While deep asleep around one in the morning, I was awakened by an argument in the adjacent room. No doubt a liquor-infused quarrel.  This was a "four out of five star" event with plenty of "f bombs" flying. Half asleep, I had no logic nor energy to deal with it. Two hours flew by and to the best of my recollection, I dozed off. Not for long since they either had kept going or set their alarm to resume fighting at 5 AM.

I finally called the front desk to complain and they said they would call to check it out. I had a vent that "piped in" every noise from their room so I heard the woman answer the phone and apologize. They quickly resumed fighting and by this time, it was time to get up. I couldn't sleep so I might as well run. Five miles done on the treadmill accomplished. I felt groggy during the run and must admit, it was a chore with little to no sleep. Before the workout, I called the front desk again. More apologies from the night shift manager.

I spotted a couple in the lobby who had been drinking beer from a pitcher the night before.  He bore the resemblance of an alcoholic.  Reddish skin with a purple undertone and bulbous nose.  He looked angry. She looked pissed, submissive, and had 80's "big hair."  I learned later that Nascar was in town.  The pieces were finally coming together.  They were "them."

Upon returning to my room, the "war room" next door was quiet.  Further proof the culprits I spotted at breakfast were still  in the lobby soaking up the alcohol with griddle waffles.  I was exhausted.

I closed my eyes for five minutes on my bed and faint groans starting to come from next door. Yes.  They were back with food in their bellies, and "make-up sex" had begun.  Normally I may have had some voyeuristic interest.  In my 20's (or perhaps in my 40's) I may have cupped a glass to my ear on the wall for entertainment, but I was over these jugheads.  I went about getting ready for work but my bathroom was like an amplifier next to their bed.  It sounded like Lassie was giving birth.

I'm not sure what was louder; the fight or the make-up act.  Regardless, I got my workouts in and I guess they got theirs.  The night manager gave me 10,000 Marriott points.  Tanks for nuttin!  I would have preferred the sleep.

Next time someone talks about business travel and how glamorous it sounds , remember my Chicago Nascar night.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Rear View Mirror and the Windshield: A Summer Recap

The running temperatures are dropping. The kids are back in school. Football has started, and the leaves in the neighborhood have not quite started to turn shades of orange and yellow. The summer race season is behind us. A good time for SeekingBostonMarathon's summer recap.

Highlands Ranch Triathlon
I had three goals I set in January; Qualify for Boston, Improve my Triathlon Game, and Qualify for the NYC Marathon. I guess two out of three ain't bad. The name of my blog is "Seeking Boston Marathon." Ironically, I'm writing this on the first week of registration for the most elusive race in the land--the Boston Marathon. I ran my first marathon naively thinking I would try and qualify for Boston in my first race. I hated the sport somewhere around mile 18 in my first ever marathon in San Diego and swore I would never run one again . Begin the addiction. My next one will be my tenth.

Getting Back to Boston

I qualified to run Boston again in 2012 to try and run my third in a row. With the explosion of the sport and the BAA wanting to compete with New York and make it even more desirable, they "raised the bar" in 2012 and even higher in 2013. You had to run faster. I did NOT get in Boston in 2012 to run my third after running 2010 and 2011.  I set the goal to get back by qualifying this year.  Ironically, I targetted the race I always wanted to do, but it was too close to Boston--the Colorado Marathon in Ft. Collins, Colorado. My college home town.

With a new job and a lot of day-to-day life constraints, I opted to use the Furman, "Run Less, Run Faster" program which had three aggressive runs a week with a complement of cross-training. Since 2011 seemed to be marked with injury and overtraining, it seemed like a smart choice especially as I'd build up my swim and bike as part of the cross-training.
After the Denver Triathlon

Being close to home, I had a great family fan base that came up to Ft. Collins to cheer me on. Diet, stomach issues and energy level have been an issue for me on race day over the last year and Ft. Collins was another one of those. I went out fairly aggressive with a goal of trying to break 3:20. I hit the porto-potty around the 2nd water stop thinking I had to take a number one, but my stomach was jacked and needed a two. I mentally put a cork in myself and said that stopping to do that would have eliminated a PR, but quite possible a BQ. I struggled with my stomach and energy, but rallied to notch my fourth ever BQ. A (ahem) gutsy performance.  (My "Rocky Mountain High" race recap is here.)

The Triathlon Season

Before jumping into the triathlon season, I paced a race at the Colfax Marathon.  I paced the 2:45 half marathon group.  Some of my DailyMile friends mistakingly thought I had paced the 2:45 full.  Regardlless, it's no doubt one of those bucket list items as a runner to "give back to the sport."  I thoroughly enjoyed it as my pictures with Elvis are evidence--the first time I'd ever stopped in a race to take a picture.  My half pace experience story is here.

After Colorado, I switched gears to focus on my triathlon game. With a birthday and new age ending in a zero, I'd moved up to a new age group so I was anxious to see what I could do in the sport that I'd started only last summer. I had four sprint triathlons over the summer (seems to be the distance I am good at and enjoy) and was able to take first place in my age group in three of the four races. A "hat trick."

My first tri was at the Denver Triathlon which "hub'ed" out of Denver's Sports Authority Field where a certain new quarterback has renewed his career. I really enjoyed the course including the open water swim and "Mile High" as the backdrop for the race. It was also the maiden voyage for my new triathlon bike; Trek Speed Concept.  The icing on the cake (aside from my first place AG) was setting a PR in a 5K...after a swim and bike ride.  (My Denver Tri recap is here.)

The toughest race of the summer was the Evergreen Triathlon which is in the small mountain town of (you guessed it) Evergreen, Colorado. Stomach issues (again) combined with a very tough course lead to my only non-podium race in the seven triathlons I've done. The "tough" course included the first seven miles of the race uphill. Color me stupid for thinking a mountain course would be anything but uphill. (Race recap here.)

My next two tris would pit "Father vs. Son" in races that I got to enjoy with my youngest son. He's only 13, but is on the DU Hilltoppers Swim team and looks like he's 15. He has a brilliant future in triathlons and swimming and is likely within months of eclipsing dad in the sport. I'm okay with that. I'm even more okay with the tri from this last weekend where we both placed first in our age group at the Parker, Colorado "Fall Frenzy."

The Fall Frenzy was a "repeat" as was the Highland Ranch Splash Mash and Dash races I did last year. My swim in the Frenzy was disappointing as I struggled with my pace and for the first time, I had water fill my goggles in a race. I had to stop to empty and reseal them on my face--rookie mistake. After the slower (compared to last year) swim, I was determined to push myself on the bike leg. I have been trying to "break" the 20 MPH barrier in a race and posted my fastest ever time of 19.9 MPH.

Colorado Marathon 2012

My only disappointments of the summer were dropping out of the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon, and subsequently not going for a PR and potential NYQ (New York Marathon Qualifier.) Stomach issues, stress, travel and fundamentally not trained to go out and try and run a PR race lead to the difficult decision.

And On a Personal Note

After a three year battle (quite literally,) I've closed the chapter on a lawsuit I've been fighting that had taken quite a toll on me and my family. I'd have to rank this much higher than going through a divorce which was no picnic either. No doubt this raised my stress levels and likely lead to a lot of the stomach issues I was dealing with. Papers have been signed to put this in the "rear view mirror" and that's where I will leave it--behind me.
 On a much more positive note, my son Jesse got his brown belt in martial arts this summer and is working towards his black belt. We had one of those hugs (after getting the brown belt) where a father and son would normally break after a "one Mississippi," but I held on with tears of pride swelling up. I can't wait for his black belt day. #prouddad

My oldest child (who's no longer a child) has entered her senior year in high school and was voted Sr. Captain of her Poms team. Overall, I'd have to say looking in the rear view mirror, it was a great summer. With my family and another race season around the corner, I have much to look forward looking out the windshield.

A footnote:  My running group lost a member this summer, Michael Fontes.  We continue to think of you and we are still saddened by your loss doing something that you loved.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Paul Ryan's Little White Marathon Lie

(The Blue Fairy:) "A lie keeps growing and growing until it's as plain as the nose on your face." (Jiminy Cricket:) "Well... guess he won't need me anymore. What does an actor want with a conscience, anyway?"

Some stories are just too good not to blog about. With the U.S. Presidential election campaign in full swing...or should I say full "mud sling," there's plenty of foddor to pick from. I woke up this morning and my twitter feed was abuzz with Paul Ryan's little white marathon lie. Seems that the public is interested in Senator Ryan's physique and exercise regiment. He's been noted as a P90X disciple and I was interested to hear that he was also a marathon runner just like me and Christian Grey.

The twist in the story is that he claimed to run a sub three hour marathon. I nearly choked on my morning coffee. Ryan last week told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he had run a marathon "Under three [hours], high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something." According to my magic training spreadsheet that would be 26.2 miles at a 6:41 pace. The LA Times stated "Even for someone like the hyper-fit Ryan, sub-3 is a substantial accomplishment...a pace most recreational runners can't hold for even a mile or two."

That's a decent 5K race pace for me. The story goes on to say that a number of folks mentally challenged the story, then proceeded to check out how fast he really ran his marathon.

Built more like a rugby player than the lean frame that would typify a sub three marathon runner, Runner's world expressed skepticism and the real facts came out. Ryan ran a single marathon—the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. – and that race lists his finish as 4 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds. Over an hour off the time he stated and run at a 9:13 minute per mile pace.

Not even close. One thing about runners is we know what our PR (personal record) is. If you've only run one race, that's your PR. Mine happens to be a 3:21.  The other thing about runners is we remember all the details about our very first marathon; I know what shirt I wore, I know the color of the "cherry tomato" blister on my toe, and I know my time.  I can still taste the beer and how good it was.

Aside from the few well publicized cases (such as Rosie Ruiz*) where runners cheated, I've found marathon runners to be quite honest when it comes to their performances. We do have (at least I do) plenty of excuses for why we didn't run faster in a race, but I never met a runner who didn't know their times.

As the Blue Fairy aptly told Pinocchio, lies tend to grow. I've had this conversation many a time with my boys. While I don't condone lying under any circumstances with my kids, I've also pointed out situations where it's ridulous to lie about something you don't even need to lie about. Lie's tend to pile up and you have to tell more lies to cover the ones you've already told. My favorite in the house was the airsoft gun wound on one of my boy's forehead. He said it happened cleaning his bathroom. Yeah, right! Like he'd ever cleaned the bathroom before.

Applying the same logic to Mr. Ryan, why would you lie about something like that? Some voters would have been impressed with the mere fact that he completed a marathon. Not that that has anything to do with qualifying yourself to run the country. Now he's backpeddling on the topic. If he ran a much slower 4:01, perhaps he was literally backpeddling that day in Duluth as well.  Mr. Ryan...I think you might have just lost a few runner votes on this blunder.

Author's Footnote:  Rosie Ruiz won the 1980 female Boston Marathon shaving 25 minutes off the previous record. Only problem is she got busted for taking the subway in the New York Marathon, and her "flabby" thighs were one of the first clues that maybe she wasn't a world class marathon runner.  In 1982, Ruiz was arrested for embezzling $60,000 from a real estate company where she worked.  She then moved back to southern Florida, only to be arrested in 1983 for her involvement in a cocaine deal.

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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