Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Sweet it is

This one felt fantastic. The last time I let out such emotion at the end of a race was in 2009 at the California International Marathon where I'd finally broke the BQ barrier. This day, there was no medal, nor podium, but I crossed a finish line for only the second time in 2016. The nearby crowd was probably thinking, "rookie," "pretend like you've been there before," or "what's with that guy...he's in the last third of the pack?" (The later had more to do with when my age group took off at Longmont's Oktoberfest Sprint Triathlon this last Sunday.) Regardless, I let out 2-3 guttural screams without audible words upon crossing the finish line. The "monkey was off my back."

This finish came over four months since I fractured the same foot that knocked me out of last November's New York city Marathon with a stress fracture. I finally crossed a finish line again. Thank you sweet baby Jesus. The second fracture was in May after a five month layoff to heal the stress fracture. I had one "fun run" then my first triathlon of 2016 in Ft. Collins in May. A week later I fractured my foot in Sonoma, California. I couldn't blame the wine, but I could blame a rock that awkwardly snapped my fifth metatarsal. #BadBreak

I want to (literally) put all my injuries behind me, but it's impossible to avoid the impact it's had over the last two years. A month ago, my foot did not seem right yet and my race season seemed to be over just as it started. As I wrote last week in Cupcake Runner, I've worked damn hard to get back. That's what makes it so much more satisfying. For the second year, I made the local Runner's Roost triathlon race team, but had been unable to wear their colors. I was bound and determined to change that.

I won't go through the blow-by-blow of my Sprint Triathlon, but a few highlights worth mentioning;

1) As my coach would have prescribed, I did a few strides of speed work the day before to get my fast twitch muscles ready.
2) I also practicing my transitions (mainly the bike mount.)
3) The strides helped, but the practice did not. The "bike out" area was quite rough with gravel and dirt. I nearly "biffed it" mounting my bike and ripped off a hunk of my left (why is it always the left foot?) big toe.
4) I hydrated well with SOS Rehydrate before the race which proved important. The bumpy road leading out of transition popped out my Profile water bottle on my tri bike in the transition area. I decided not to stop and grab it. I was worried I'd regret this.
5) This would be my first wetsuit open water swim of the season and only second open water swim of the season--six days earlier. Without getting injured, I would have had a full summer of open water swimming to work on navigation and sighting. Not thinking I'd return to racing, I simply didn't swim in the open water, but did a lot of pool swims.
6) My swim was decent, but my navigation was way off. Likely the slowest 750M swim I'd ever had. Waaay off my best times in the water. Something to work on next season. (Sighting and swimming straight.)

7) My 12.9 bike ride was strong. Not sure how I did it without hydration, but again, I was thankful I loaded up prior to the race. My goal on the bike leg of my triathlons is to exceed 20 MPH. Goal accomplished. My mind settled with the fact that it would be around 40 minutes (mile one of the run,) before I'd get a reward of liquid.
8) My run leg (or should I say legs) was also strong. I wanted to be in the sub-seven minute per mile pace. All the side leg lifts, planks, side planks, and knee bends over the last four months of rehab delivered dividends. I felt strong.
9) My goal on the run is to always "pick off" those ahead of me on the course in my age group. For my runner friends or those not familiar with triathlons, they mark your age on the back of your calf so competitors know who's ahead or behind you. I didn't get passed, and I passed several including three in my age group.
10) The strong run propelled me to a top ten age group finish in a very competitive field (Boulder is not far from Longmont, and this was likely the strongest competition I'd faced in a triathlon.)

After my primal scream at the end, I'd learned quickly that I'd finished eighth in my age group. I always have a stretch goal of grabbing an age group podium, but my "three props on a four prop boat" swim killed any chance of that. For once, I was okay with that. More than okay, I was ecstatic! As we exited the parking lot, a fellow athlete gave me one of the best complements I could expect, "you are fast!, I tried to catch you on the entire bike leg!" Nice to hear from a stranger.

Up next? Runner's World Half & Festival in Bethlehem in October, and facing my Nemesis race; the New York City Marathon in November. Bring it on!

Editors Footnote: I parted ways this week with a blog vendor relationship. It wasn't exactly amicable. I doubt she will read this. If she did, she would know more about me and the adversity I've had over the last two years. If it's not clear, I love my blog, but the blog is way down the list below my family in terms of priorities. I have had a hard time remaining focused on my blog this last year. It's tough to write about running when you can't run. Nine of the last twelve months did not include running. Two foot fractures and starting the year recovering from skin cancer surgery had me more than a bit off.

I also have three kids in college this year (for the first time at the same time.) Not ironically, I've worked harder than I ever have with my career to provide for their education. This week I took my 71st flight of the year. I do that because I have my priorities straight--to take care of my family. For those that travel, you know this is quite tiring even without training. If I don't seem "dedicated," you don't know me. I have also focused this year on my run buddy Liam (from IRun4 Michael organization.) What little spare time I have left, I send him a note. He will never run as he's confined to a wheelchair and had over 100 operations due to water on the brain and related issues. My parents probably don't hear from me enough, but I try, so sorry if I didn't log in often enough to your portal. Don't ever question my dedication, priorities, or sense of community. Too busy for you? I might give you that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Cupcake Runner

I think I've finally turned a corner. I have been more than a bit subtle on what my goals are over the next few months. Lost in the social network atmosphere and on a hill overlooking a cemetery in Sonoma, my rebound season ended just as it started. I've talked a bit about the qualified New York City Marathon that I had to withdraw from last year, but I haven't really talked about the injury deferral I still have for New York City the first week of November. I've held a hotel reservation and my race confirmation and quietly gone about my rehab since I fractured that cursed left foot in May.

The elephant in the room is that I haven't run a marathon in seventeen months.This all may have just changed. Not overnight. I've busted my ass. I've been in a boot (three times in 12 months.) I've been cranky (sorry again to my wife for that one.) I've been patient yet diligent. I've worked hard on my diet (see Whole30 post HERE,) and my strength. On the later, I've tried to average at least three days a week working on core, hip, and leg strength. Without publically stating, I'm training for a marathon, I've been training for a marathon--the fricking New York City Marathon. At one point I started, felt some "wonkiness" in my fractured foot and put myself back in the boot. I have cross-trained a LOT. Lots of swimming, biking, and eliptical.

One thing I have not done a good job of is laying out a plan and documenting it like I have in my previous 13 marathons. Part superstition, partly because I (quite frankly) was not sure if my foot could handle the training. That doesn't mean I haven't been working hard--just the opposite. I have consulted my marathon training plan from Boston 2013. That was my most complete and successful training plan. I've blended that plan with a Furman FIRST training plan. FIRST only runs three days a week and fills in with cross-training and rest the other days.

For now, it seems to be working. Over the last month, I've slowly added Yassos back into my training plan; normally on a Tuesday or Wednesday. I started with only a handful, and slow (1/2 mile repeats.) Last week, I up'ed that to eight Yassos, and increased my pace finally below a six minute per mile pace. Best news? My foot did not hurt before, during, or after. Distance? Three weekends ago I went sixteen around 30-60 seconds over BQ/marathon goal pace. The following weekend, I went thirteen and added marathon goal-pace miles. Last weekend, I pulled up my training plan from that infamous 2013 Boston Marathon at the same calendar spot (x weeks out from race day.) Seven mile warm-up, then three by three miles starting at marathon goal pace, and steadily increasing to PR pace. Two mile cooldown. It didn't seem ominous as you think of it as seven warmup miles. That sounds easy. Three miles at marathon goal pace. Sounds easy. Then only two more sets slightly faster--seemed doable. I dreaded the cooldown as it was uphill to my house. It felt fan-fricking-tastic!

Why the sudden change? It wasn't so sudden. It was hard work to get where I am. I am already at my ideal race weight of 165 pounds. Lighter than I've ever been at this stage. A lot of that was the Whole30 experience and trying to eat healthier since then. I went to a family dinner the Saturday night before my long run of 18 (goal-paced) miles, and my sister-in-law was wide-eyed and asked "have you lost weight???" Around 16 pounds lighter than I was when I was depressed and "stress-eating" over my latest injury. She told me to stop losing weight, and I agreed. I also asked her, "have you ever seen the first few guys that cross the finish line of a marathon? They aren't exactly built like football players."

Given her comments, and enjoying good company, I splurged and had two plates of Lasagne (cheese and pasta are not Whole30 friendly) along with more than a few mini-cupcakes (sugar is not Whole30 approved nor is the flour.) It must have provided some sort of special power as the next day, I "crushed" that 18 miles.

Next on the schedule? I am trying to redeem myself on the triathlon front and race this coming weekend in a Sprint Triathlon locally with one of my boys. Redemption in that, this would only be my third race of the year (one of those was a fun run,) and first in four months. I am feeling strong and the foot (rub your rabbit's foot) feels good. After that, I've been invited as a blog "Influencer" at the Runner's World Half Marathon & Festival in Bethlehem Oct 14-16th. After that, God and foot willing, I'm racing New York City in November. Cupcakes for everyone!

(Author's footnote: I've been averaging some type of cardio six days a week. Historically, I've taken my "rest day" on a Friday. The last few weeks more by accident, I've taken that rest day on Saturday. Odd, but it seems to benefit my long runs on Sunday.)

Friday, September 9, 2016

My First Distance Race in a Year: Signed up for Runner's World Half & Festival

The trend of “I can’t seem to catch a break” on breaks has turned a corner. “Breaks” as in over the last year I’ve had as many walking boots and fractures in my left foot as I had girlfriends from Jr. High to graduating college. That answer would be two. That's also the piddly number of races I've been in over that same time span.

I won’t belabor the breaks, but a stress fracture diagnosis knocked me out of the 2015 New York City Marathon. Hard work and rehabilitation lead to a tune-up 5k race (more like a fun run) and my first (and only) triathlon of 2016 (and a podium!) in May. I promptly celebrated with my wife on a trip to Sonoma over Memorial Day weekend. I should have known better than to have gone on a trail run above a cemetery, but alas I fractured the same foot “rolling” my foot on a rock. I returned to the walking boot, time off, then another round of rehabilitation. At one point, I returned to running (obviously a bit too soon,) then went back in the boot. Bear with me...the story gets better.

Fast forward to August and one of those emails that you wonder, didn’t they read my “A Run With Runs is no Fun” post? I’m not always the commercially popular or politically correct blogger. I also haven’t been able to write a whole lot about running, but Runner’s World Magazine asked if I would like to be an “Influencer” at the Runner’s World Half and Festival sponsored by Altra in Bethlehem, PA October 14-16, 2016. As my young son (at the time) would say, “is that a legitimate question?” Hell to the yeah I would! After saying YES, I wondered, “how can I influence other runners and bloggers when I can’t run yet?” More hard work was the answer.

I have been using a modified version of the Furman FIRST marathon training plan thinking there was still a chance I could run (not race) the New York City Marathon via injury deferral in November. "Modified" training meaning a heavier emphasis on the cross-training (lots of swimming, biking, and eliptical,) but working 6-7 days a week versus 5-6. Over the last year, I have sought out the nation’s best run physical therapy at Steadman Hawkins in Denver. A minimum of three days a week, I have busted my (skinny) ass working on core, hip, and leg strength. Meb (the run whisperer) also drove this passion for strength after reading his book, “Meb for Mortals.” I also took a radical step with my nutrition (along with my wife) and turned my diet upside down with a Whole30 program. I don’t know that it’s ideal for runners, but it’s altered my diet (after the 30 days,) and I am at my ideal race weight and leaner than I have been in years. A lean, mean, starting-to-run machine!

I know, I know, you’re probably tired of hearing about all my injuries over the last two years, but I keep tripping over the “dumb luck” rock (in the case of Sonoma…it was just a rock.) I can’t ignore the fact that my near fatal crash two years ago in a triathlon (bike course) has created a ripple effect of injuries that’s lead to one hand’s worth of races in total over two years.

I’m convinced to put all that behind me with the good fortune of the Runner’s World invite. I am being smart, (again,) working hard, and ramping up the training to represent Seeking Boston Marathon “come hell or high water” in Bethlehem. Two weeks ago, I ran the furthest I’ve run since May—thirteen miles. I followed that up with 16 miles last weekend. This week? Yassos for the first time since May and the foot held up well! Yassos are my favorite speed workout…appropriate given I will have the chance to run with their namesake, Bart Yasso next month. I’m coming for you “Badwater Bart!”

Join me, Bart, and these other Influencers at the Runner's World Half and  Festival. (Save 10% by using code: SeekingBostonMarathonBlog)

Kelly from RunSelfieRepeat
Victoria from Run4PRs
Ryan from RunRealRyan
Evann from EvannClinan
Rebeccah from WassnerTwins
Michele from NYCRunningMama
Jess from JessRunsHappy
Angela from HappyFitMama
Jason from SaltMarshRunning
Hollie from FueledByLolz
Amy from RunningMarathonMom
Sarah from SarahAttar

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Meme Monday (on a) Tuesday: Taming the Unicorn

Meme Monday on a flight out of town on a Tuesday. Registration for the 2017 Boston Marathon is less than a week away. Are you ready to tame the unicorn? I am shooting for 2018.

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