Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pilgrimman Triathlon Race Recap

It seems as if a whole summer has passed since my last blog entry, which is unsurprising I suppose given that a whole summer has passed since my last blog entry.  I'd feel bad about that, but truth be told there's really been very little to write home about as I've spent the summer trying to prepare myself for this past weekend's Pilgrimman Olympic Distance Triathlon.  The advertised distances for the race were 0.9 mile swim, 28 mile bike, and 6.6 mile run.

I'm not entirely sure why, but there seems to be a naming convention for triathlons that includes "-man," particularly if they include a 70.3 distance or longer, see Timberman, Eagleman, Pumpkinman, etc.  Though the timing is a bit off to be associated with Thanksgiving, Pilgrimman did take place in the Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth, MA, Myles Standish being a passenger on the Mayflower and first commander of Plymouth Colony's militia.  Check out the flow on the pilgrim.
I set Pilgrimman, in its inaugural year, as my target race for my inaugural season training for triathlons and spent the summer building up my swim and bike strength while trying to maintain a semblance of running shape.  Of course, when I signed up for the race I didn't have a very good sense of exactly where it was, nor did I know that registration would close at 7:30 a.m.  These two factors combined led to a 4:50 a.m. alarm so I could make sure that my whole race day wouldn't be scuttled by a failure to get through registration on time.  This leads me to my first gripe with Pilgrimman, two gripes actually.  First, registration did not close at 7:30.  This gripe has more to do with being annoyed that I lost out on maybe 30 extra minutes of sleep and less to do with an insistence that races keep their word about when they say registration will close.  Frankly, it's a good thing if they accommodate stragglers.  Still, it was clear that the 7:30 time was unnecessarily early.  Second, they had run out of all but extra-large size t-shirts by the time I checked in, around 7:20 a.m.  This was particularly vexing given that the shirt was included in the registration fee and I doubt there were many triathletes interested in XL size t-shirts.  Big deal?  Nah.  Annoying and an issue that should be addressed next year?  Yes, absolutely.  In any event, I was glad I had everything ready to go the night before so I didn't have to wake up any earlier than I already had to.

2014-09-27 20.51.36-1

With registration materials in hand, I headed over to the transition area and got all markered up.  I wouldn't exactly say the transition area was especially clearly laid out, but it was good enough and I was able to snag a primo piece of real estate on the bike rack.  Unlike at the Dam Triathlon, this time I had a decent sense of how to set up my transition area with the hopes of cutting down on my T1 and T2 times from my first attempt.  I munched on a half a pack of Honey Stinger chews to go along with my breakfast of toast and butter (note I include these details mostly in anticipation of a potential coach reading them at some point and critiquing my pre-race fueling) and passed the time talking with some fellow competitors, including one older gentleman rocking a wicked sweet pair of jorts over his tri-kit.  Finally, with everything in place, it was time to head down to the beach for the swim.

Despite my instincts towards laziness and an aversion to swimming any more than absolutely necessary, I convinced myself that everyone else who was in the water warming up must have some better idea about the right way to get ready for a swim than I did.  So, ever so slowly, I made my way into what turned out to be cold, cold water, at least to my delicate sensibilities.  Though all I wanted to do was rush back to shore and get warm, I ducked under the water and embarked on a roughly 50 meter warm-up swim.  OK, it wasn't a lot, but I think it let me get over that first chest-crushing rush of coldness and anxiety that could otherwise completely sabotage the swim leg.  Fast forward through other age group swim starts and it was finally time to start.
That's me, bending down.
That's me, bending down.
The swim was 3 laps for the Olympic distance, laid out in rectangular fashion with a short beach run from the end of each lap to the start of the next.  I'd like to think that I maintained a fairly even pace throughout the swim, slow that pace may have been.  There were two notable exceptions to the swim going pretty smoothly, the first being when, during the third lap, I veered too far left going around the first buoy (in a counter-clockwise fashion) and had to course-correct back up to the second buoy so that I didn't cut the course.  Next, on the home stretch I somehow found myself swimming perpendicular to the beach, which, if you are unfamiliar with how races work, is not a good idea.  This is not a good idea, at all.  Thankfully I didn't get too far before realizing my mistake, and powered through to the beach, dragging myself out of the water and beginning the trudge uphill to the transition.  Final time for the swim was 36:22, a 2:18 pace, good enough for a solid 109th place...out of 146...dang it.  I'm a slow swimmer.  Still, the performance was about what I would have expected, which makes it fine by me.
I tried doing the whole "running" thing but mostly ended up yogging and walking to my bike.  Learning from a mistake I made at Dam, which essentially boiled down to not listening to my mentor Jocelyn's advice, I put my calf sleeves on under my wetsuit for this race, which meant I didn't have to spend time pulling them on in T1.  I was dismayed to see that my helmet, which contained my sunglasses and gloves, had been knocked to the ground off my handlebars, but I can't say it really cost me any time as a result, just annoyance.  I made it out of T1 in 3:44, a big improvement from the 5:01 it took me at Dam.

On to the bike leg.  The course was an out-and-back format, 7 miles out, 7 back, therefore requiring 2 circuits for the full distance.
Bike Course
Though the elevation gain doesn't seem to reflect it, the course felt like it was an endless series of slight hills with very few flat stretches to speak of.
Bike Elevation
After the end of lap 1, I took one Salted Watermelon Gu and also removed my cycling gloves, which were threatening to numb my hands entirely.  Both turnaround spots featured hairpin turns around a cone, which leads me to the first of my 3 gripes concerning the bike leg, the first being the hairpin turns, which I found difficult to navigate in a narrow space and a big momentum killer.  Frankly, I don't know what could be done to avoid this, but I don't like those kind of turns in road races, let alone on the bike.  Next, traffic issues were a major concern for me.  On the first lap I had a run-in with a car that I felt got too close to me on a turn and exchanged some pleasantries with the driver.  I know it can't have been easy for cars to pass riders given riders going both ways on the road, but as a result I ended up stuck behind cars going up a hill because they refused to pass the rider in front of me.  I'll give the Pilgrimman RDs some credit for course management in terms of giving directions to riders as I understand from various Facebook posts that there were major issues in the sprint race the day before.  Still, course management remains a concern for me.  Finally, though I love volunteers and am grateful they were there for the race, I found that they crowded the road when handing out water, though maybe I just don't know how these things work in triathlons, never having been offered water on a bike before.  I'm willing to chalk that last gripe up to personal discomfort with people being too close to me on the bike.

[EDIT: Pilgrimman has announced that the course will be changed next year to a closed course, which is great news.  I really respect how quickly they have moved to address concerns from racers, it's the mark of a good RD and they should get credit for their alacrity.]

Some shots from the bike leg!

Pilgrimman Pilgrimman DM_140928_8572

I didn't pass as many people on the bike leg as I did at Dam, but I was still pretty happy with an average pace of 18.7 MPH.  That said, I have a feeling that I extended myself too much, sapping crucial energy for the run.  My time ended up at 1:29:39, good enough for 62nd place on the bike leg, which I can be pleased with.  I quickly racked my bike, gulped down some Gu Brew and a salt tab (thanks to Alett for the suggestion), pulled on my New Balance 890 v4s and headed out of the transition zone to begin my last leg, with a T2 time of 2:11, down from 2:42 at Dam.

I started the run feeling tightness in my quads, and that was about as good as I'd feel all run.  The run course started uphill.  The run course continued uphill.  The run course never stopped uphilling.  OK, that's an exaggeration, still, the course just felt brutal to me, even though it probably might not have been so hard if it was just a road race.  I had to stop about a half mile in for a bio break - it would not be the last time I had to stop running.  It didn't take too long to get the feeling that I just did not have very much left in my legs for the run and I soon became fairly demoralized by the feeling that I was running on what seemed to be a net uphill loop, which I previously did not think was possible (that's a lie, there was a long period in high school when I argued that the Stratton Brook XC course was more uphill than downhill, despite being a loop).  I likely wasn't in the best frame of mind, but I do have to point out my final two gripes for the course, both having to do with the water stops on the run.  The first probably has to do with me being a curmudgeon, but at the mile 1 water stop the volunteer asked if I wanted water, bottled water, or Gatorade.  I don't blame the volunteer, and again maybe this is me not understanding the triathlon world, but at that point I just could not process or deal with trying to figure out why I was differentiating between "water" and "bottled water."  Upon reflection, I'll move this gripe into a personal preference clash as, maybe, triathletes like getting bottles of water they can carry with them and sip as needed.  Maybe some people put this feature of the race into their plus category.  However, I think my second gripe, now technically my first, is legitimate, namely that the Gatorade on the course was really, really gross.  I'm not sure what went wrong with the mixing process, but something did go terribly wrong, leaving it tasting really bad.  Perhaps this is all to say that maybe I should consider using a fuel belt in the future such that I can have better control over my own hydration needs, something I've never worried about in a road race, but, again, triathlon is a different world.

Pilgrimman Pilgrimman DM_140928_9387
As for the run course itself, other than feeling ludicrously hard, it was quite pretty running through the forest, at least during the times I could let myself appreciate the scenery.  All my fellow racers were friendly and encouraging, despite everyone around me appearing to be in some sort of pain or another.  Here are some pictures that relate to the course, and my slow, slow splits thereupon.

Run CourseRun ElevationRun Splits
At long last I took the final turn onto the path leading to the finish, which, of course featured another slight incline.  I finished hot, exhausted, but proud.

IMG_4710

Oh, did I mention it was hot?  Like really hot?  Like "unseasonably warm" but hotter?  Well, it was hot.  Was I pleased with the run, which should have been my best leg?  Definitely not.  But, was I proud of the accomplishment of finishing?  You betcha.  There's plenty to build on and I learned a lot of lessons about both training and racing, including:
  • Do.  More.  Bricks.
  • Swim more, swim faster when swimming more.
  • Run longer distances during training.
  • More bricks.
  • Think about adding a heart rate monitor to racing to not over-exert on the bike.
  • Be less fastidious in transition.
  • Swim straighter, sight more often.
  • Finally, more bricks.
  • Eat a better breakfast pre-race.
I'm sure there are more things I could have done better both in training and racing, but I'll have to figure them out as I go along.  For now, I can be content with placing pretty darn squarely in the middle of the pack, 76th place overall and 6th in my age group.  I know I can do better.  I know I will do better, and I can't wait until next tri season to prove it.

2014-09-28 12.49.45

p.s. I don't want to come off overly harsh on my race experience.  This was a first time race, and it can't be easy to stage a triathlon in its first year.  Overall it was a very good experience and all the volunteers were outgoing and helpful.  Fixing the t-shirt ordering and traffic issues would go a long way to smoothing the race experience as a whole but, on the whole, I think it was mostly a job well done by the RDs.

Laterpost: DAM Triathlon

I'm switching over to a new blogging platform and having difficulty importing content from the old platform.  So, I'm going through the low-tech process of copying old blog posts over to maintain some continuity between the two and not have this blog be a barren space.  Please forgive any tech glitches in the cross-over.  
It's been far too long since an update here, and now all of a sudden it's like, wait, what, triathlon?  That's right, dear reader, triathlon.  Let's start at the beginning, shall we?  In the summer of '97 I participated in my first triathlon at Winding Trails in Farmington, CT.  At the time, the format was a 1/4 mile pond swim, roughly 8 mile bike ride, then 5K trail run.  The weekly summer race series is still going strong, though they've switched up the bike to a 5 mile trail ride.  All the same, pretty neat that the tradition lives on these many, many years later.  At the time of these races not only did I not have a wetsuit (though most racers weren't using them in the fairly warm water), not have a road bike, instead using my Mongoose mountain bike, but I was running in long mesh shorts and a cotton tank.  That's right.  Frickin' COTTON.  I shudder at the thought.  It would be a long time before I embraced the split short as anything but a cross country race piece of apparel.  But, embrace it I have since then.  About the only "legit" gear I had was were my trusty Nike Zoom Country racing flats.  Through the magic of technology, I have been able to take what were once actual physical photographs from those races that could be held in one's hands and converted them into "digital files," that I might share them with you.

1048279_10101578151857830_1242313049_o1039809_10101578151678190_1893153074_o1048615_10101578151239070_1075576101_o (1)

Sigh, look at that fine head of hair.  Also, please note the old school TYR swim briefs in the middle picture.  Cool briefs, bro.  I'm sorry if that came off as sarcastic, I really do think that dude rocks the grape-smuggler look with panache.

Between those heady high school days and this past weekend, despite having a love affair with road bikes and roughly a dozen solid intentions to get into triathloning, I only followed the sport from the sidelines while concentrating on road racing, geeking out over bike tech, and swimming every now and then for a couple weeks when injured.  Case in point, I purchased a Zoot wetsuit in November 2012 but did not open it until June 2014.  And so, I existed as a pure runner, at least until my wife and I decided to each get bikes.

After a number of test rides and trips to bike shops, which was very difficult work, let me tell you, I finally decided on a Cannondale CAAD8 bike, which seemed to be a good compromise between an "endurance" bike and a "racing" bike in terms of comfort and geometry.  Sure, I could be making that up, but it sounds right at least in my head.  Also, it's pretty, don't you think?

10404521_10102312301401260_2124894403487107289_n

I...like taking pictures of my bike.

Concord RideMass Ave Bridge

I joined up with local triathlon club Zoom Multisport and starting joining them for Track Tuezday workouts at the Harvard Track and gorgeous Walden Wednezday open water swims (OWSs) at Walden Pond in Concord, starting to get used to swimming in my wetsuit and the difference between pool swimming and non-pool swimming.

Walden 1
Walden Team

I mean, beautiful, right?  Not the worst way to start a day, if I do say so myself.

Now that we've established that I had a modicum of training under my belt in the three ancient disciplines of triathlon, let's get onto the race recap of this past weekend's Dam Triathlon.  That Dam race (I feel it necessary to overuse the Dam/damn thing as the race itself certainly did) consisted of a 1/2 mile swim, "13" mile bike leg, and "5K" run.  I use quotes to indicate that although the race may have said one thing about the distances, my Garmin said otherwise, as did others'.  In the end, the bike was likely more like 12.5 miles and the run 2.9.
Alright, let's finally get to the race.  Friend and Zoom teammate Jocelyn picked me up bright and early and we loaded up her Subaru with my bike alongside hers, because taking anything other than a Subaru to a race involving bikes would be a USAT violation.  Arriving in Amesbury, I was downright giddy to go through the pre-race procedures of getting Sharpie'd up with my number and getting my ankle timing chip.  Then it was time to set up my transition spot, which just happened to be right next to another Zoomer, Greg.  Now, I've seen transition set-ups before, but somehow trying to do my own filled me with anxiety.  Above all, I didn't want commit any newbie faux-passes.  Here's what I ended up with.

2014-07-12 07.44.44

I even managed to do that nifty thing where you hook your bike onto the rack using the saddle...and it didn't fall down!

And for my fellow shoe geeks, shoes.
Pearl Izumi plus Hoka One One.
Pearl Izumi plus Hoka One One.
Headed to the shore for the start of the race, Rebecca flagged me down and gave me some last minute words of encouragement.  She also got a pre-race shot.
They were supposed to have yellow swimcaps for new triathletes.  Instead, they wrote "NOVICE" on the regular ones.
They were supposed to have yellow swimcaps for new triathletes. Instead, they wrote "NOVICE" on the regular ones.
My swim wave was second in the water behind the elites and was to be a "waist-deep" start, which I didn't know existed until that day.  I tried to relax a little bit before the start by joking around with my fellow swimmers to calm my nerves and it must have worked because, for my first time in open-water swimming, I didn't have any moment of panic when I got into the actual swim.
I'm in the white cap.
I'm in the white cap.
My only strategy on the swim itself was to survive and maintain forward momentum.  I achieved the forward momentum goal, and survived as well, but definitely could have done a lot better job when it came to sighting, not that it likely would have done anything to change the fact that I left the water second to last in my age group (12/13) and behind a number of athletes that started 6 minutes after I did.  But, hey, I swam a half mile both without drowning and without collapsing on the beach in a huffing mess after it was over.  Final time for the swim was 17:49, which I'm pretty sure is a time I should be happy with given my training paces.
Photo by Rebecca.  Editing by Snapseed.
Photo by Rebecca. Editing by Snapseed.
2014-07-12 08.20.47

It would be fair to say that my first transition was glacial in pace. In fact, it took a whole 5:01.6.  I should have listened to J's advice to put my calf sleeves on under my wetsuit and swam with them and I should have gone sockless rather than spending the time to dry off my feet, quite deliberately it would seem given the time.  Other than that, I'm not entirely sure what I could have done to get through the transition faster, but I'm sure as I get some more tris under my belt it'll just...happen.  Finally, all set up, I made my out of T1.

2014-07-12 08.25.08-2

On to the bike!  I figured I'd be able to make up some time here and set off to do just that.  Then I missed the second turn, roughly 1/8 mile into the leg.  Oops.  Backtracking, I made it onto the real course and set my sights on the cyclists ahead of me.  Riding in the drops, I got into a good rhythm, focusing on keeping my cadence up and "spinning" rather than "pushing" the pedals.  Soon I was making up ground on, and then passing, other competitors, eventually settling in with about 4 or 5 other cyclists that I would trade spots with throughout the remainder of the leg.  I have to say that there was a moment around Mile 8 where I just had to smile, thinking "I'm racing on a bike right now, and that's pretty neat."  It was a truly unique moment in my pursuit of athletics, and one I enjoyed tremendously.  My final time on the bike was 39:24, good for a 19.1 MPH average according to Strava, my best MPH average over any distance to date, and 7/13 for my age group.  Speaking of Strava, here's your Dam bike route map and elevation chart.

Dam Strava Bike
Sadly the official race photographer didn't get any shots of the bike leg, but thankfully Rebecca was on the spot and got some!

2014-07-12 09.05.02-2

And then it was into T2, which I managed to navigate a lot faster than T1, likely because it mostly involved changing shoes and taking off my helmet.

2014-07-12 09.07.18

And then onto the run, which I hoped would be my best showing.  I slipped on the trial pair of Hoka One One Conquests the Hoka rep procured for me and made my way out to the course.  Although perhaps a bit heavier than the shoes I would normally race a 5K in, I was looking forward to the cushioning that the Hokas would give my legs and the Speed Laces were perfect in aiding my attempt to speed up my transition.  Also, they matched my Pearl Izumi cycling shoes, which is very important.

2014-07-12 09.07.38

Almost immediately, I was hit with the exact same problem I would have way back in high school switching over from the bike to the run...calf cramping.  Also, that whole legs feeling like "bricks" thing was exactly on-point.  I stopped at the side of the road to stretch out my calves whereupon Zoomer Lindsey came up on me and encouraged me to get going.  Thankfully that bit of stretching did the trick and I didn't have any other issues with them.

The run course was about as hilly a"5K" course as I've run, which hills definitely took their toll on my already beaten legs.  I tried to keep my sights set on the runners ahead of me and do my best to pick them off as I could.  Given that I've run, and written about, my fair share of road races, I can't say there was a lot to blog home about when it came to the run leg other than to note that, even in the heat, my Pearl Izumi tri shorts and Zoot tri top were both comfortable to run in.

After one last uphill push, there was a quick corner to turn before finally hitting the finish line, 1:25:48 after I started with a 20:53 run split, which was 5/13 in my age group.  Here's the pace and elevation chart.

Dam Run Leg

And then, I was done, with a neat and glittery medal in hand.

2014-07-12 12.12.05
 
Flush with excitement, I met up with Rebecca and my fellow Zoomers whereupon we all helped ourselves to the Kegs and Eggs that makes the Dam Triathlon such an appealing race, i.e. one local beer plus some eggs, sausage and blueberry muffin.

The Dam Triathlon was a Dam good way to start my Dam life as a triathlete, or at least an adult triathlete.  Many lessons were learned, and there are many more to come, no doubt.   I'm very grateful for my supportive wife being there to not just cheer me on and take great action shots, but keep me posted on how I'm doing in the field.  Coming out of the water she told me "there are white caps behind you," which was not quite technically true as there was only one white cap behind me, but it made me feel better nonetheless.  Also thankful for my Zoom teammates, in particular J, who helped me with innumerable training and race-day questions, and then provided more encouragement on the course.

Next up, the Borderline Running Club Triathlon, a 5 mile bike to a pond, 500 yard swim, 5 mile bike back to the start, then a 5K run and then, at the end of September, the Pilgrimman Triathlon, my attempt at the Olympic Distance!

Run, and tri, happy!
 
 

Laterpost: Cambridge 5K Freedom Run (June 11, 2014)

I'm switching over to a new blogging platform and having difficulty importing content from the old platform.  So, I'm going through the low-tech process of copying old blog posts over to maintain some continuity between the two and not have this blog be a barren space.  Please forgive any tech glitches in the cross-over.  
When is a 5K not just an ordinary 5K?  When it ends with a wicked party, complete with what is essentially an open beer bar.  Such is the case with the Freedom Run, a Cambridge 5K race.  This would be my third Cambridge 5K race, starting with the VERT-Sasquatch Trail Race in 2012 and then the Yulefest in...2013 I believe.  The races are always well-attended with a young race crowd looking to have a great race and then a great party after.
I went into the race hoping for a good time on what I thought would be a fairly fast course.  After being only six seconds off my PR the previous week at the Oak Bluffs Memorial Day 5K, running 21:12 on a course with a few good hills, I thought that I might have a better time in me.  I decided the race would be the perfect time to break out my brand-spanking new November Project Grassroots Gear along with my relatively new New Balance 1400v2 racing flats.

photo 1
A cool feature of the race, which started at Cambridgeside Galleria, was the offer of free parking in the Galleria garage such that, even though I was running later than I wanted to be, I was able to park easily, jog through the mall to packet pick-up as a warm-up, jog back to the car and then to the start and feel like I'd gotten my muscles at least a little on the warm side.  I said a brief hello to friends Kat and Thor and then made my way to the starting line, weaving my way through the crowd to get to a spot close to the front.

I resolved in this race not to make the same mistake I did before in Oak Bluffs, i.e. going out too fast in the first mile.  At OB, I went through mile 1 in about 6:24 so, true to my plan, I took it nice and easy and cruised through mile 1 in 6:14.  Damn.  The good news was that I had thought the first mile felt pretty hard and that old "I just don't have it today" refrain started passing through my head.  I say good news because it would have been really depressing to feel like my legs didn't have any fast in them and then have it confirmed with a slow opening mile.  As it was, I could take comfort in knowing I had just run 1/3 of the race at a fast pace (for me).

Mile 2 was pretty much a straight shot down Hampshire St., followed by a sharp right on to Cambridge St.  Throughout the mile I could see Kat chugging away ahead of me and set my sights on trying to keep her close, knowing that she would be going at a pace that I'd like to get close to.  Somewhere along the way I got passed by the newly-returned-to-Boston Mike Dow, who proceeded to remove his shirt and truly give the fans a show.  There was little else to report for the mile, and it passed in 6:41, much better than mile 2 of the OB race, which was 7:01 (though that included the two climbs).

The 1.1 miles were a long straight shot down Cambridge St., affording a good view of the runners ahead of me and giving me some targets to keep sight of.  I wasn't able to catch them, but hopefully just having that visual helped me avoid slowing down more than I might have otherwise.  Though the course featured some slight, gradual uphills here and there on the course, the only real hill came around mile 2.5 and last about 0.2 miles.  It wasn't a real hill by most race standards, but coming so late on an otherwise flat course, it certainly took its toll.  During the hill, my pace jumped up to around 7:25, not exactly the pace I was hoping for.  But, with the course finishing on a downhill, I was able to put the hammer down, at least as much as I had in me, and I felt like I really turned in a solid kick effort.  It certainly helped to see the clock ticking inexorably towards the 21 minute mark and I really, really wanted to be under that time.  My final, official time?  20:44, good for a 22 second PR and an ecstatic feeling given that I hadn't seen 20:xx for a 5K since high school.  I'm particularly proud of this picture because, I think you can see the effort in my face.
photo 2
Post-race, I met up with Kat and we hit the beer garden.  I wish I could say that I hit it hard, given that I had to drive after, but I still managed to have some tastes of the offerings from the likes of Night Shift, Notch, and Downeast Cider.  If you can take public transportation to a Cambridge 5K party/race, I definitely recommend you do so.

When I got home, I allowed myself a couple treats to celebrate the PR, enjoyed while attempting to do some gardening.  Long story short, I was exceedingly happy with a great result at a great race enjoyed with some great friends!

The tribe is strong.
photo

Laterpost: The 118th Boston Marathon: A Race Recap and Retirement (April 24, 2014)

I'm switching over to a new blogging platform and having difficulty importing content from the old platform.  So, I'm going through the low-tech process of copying old blog posts over to maintain some continuity between the two and not have this blog be a barren space.  Please excuse any technical glitches and formatting errors along the way.

My third marathon, and fourth race of a marathon or longer, is now, officially in the books.  The official time, 4:26:16, a 10:10 pace.  This wasn't the time I'd hoped for, it wasn't even in the same zip code as what I hoped for, but that doesn't mean I'm not proud of the result.  Here's how the day went.  Actually, first, let me lay out my marathon day gear:

photo 2
photo 3

For shorts, I went with the new Brooks Essential 3.5" Split Short.

photo (1)


photo 5

And, now, we return to the recap.  The day started with a 4:00 AM alarm so we could make it down to the Westin in Copley Square to reconnoiter with the Run For Research team in our private ballroom.  I wish I had gotten myself there earlier to get some more coffee down, but I didn't realize how the streets would be blocked off and had to go way out of my way just to get to the hotel.  But I was very grateful Rebecca woke up early with me and drove us in so I could get in a quick nap along the way.  After a team picture, we loaded up our buses and made the trip to Hopkinton.  It's always a little mind boggling thinking about how long it takes just to drive there and thinking "I have to run back!"  We arrived at Athlete's Village sometime 7 and then hunkered down for a long morning of...waiting.  With a bank of port-a-potties right outside of our bus, I decided the best bet would be to hunker down with my RFR teammates and try to relax some.  While this mostly worked out well, especially because I didn't bring anything to sit on in Athlete's Village, I do think it set the stage for me to be dehydrated during the race, as I only had one water bottle with me.  I knew I could have gotten more if I went into the staging area itself, but I wasn't sure I'd be let out of it once I passed through security, so I held off until about 9:30, when I couldn't take it any more and had to get water so I could eat some Honey Stinger Chews.

Now, somewhere along the way, I got either completely mixed up in what time my wave was supposed to start, or just had the time of day wrong, because I totally missed my wave's start, Wave 3 that is.  I thought that I was joining the Wave 3 crowd to head to the start when, as I looked around me at the other runners, I realized that everyone else's bib was yellow, while mine was blue.  This seemed like a fairly good indication that I had done something wrong.  Now, this wasn't exactly the WORST problem to have in the race, especially because it meant I got to see some friends in Wave 4 before I started.  That said, it did throw me off, as I wasn't starting with my RFR team and it gave me some anxiety that I could have done without.

Starting in Wave 4 meant that I would have many thousands of people in front of me from the start.  Clearly I wasn't expecting to set any land speed records in this race, but I did have hopes to be around 8:30 pace (Spoiler Alert: I did not achieve this), which would be hard to reach, certainly in the early stages of the race.  I have to be honest and say that weaving my way through the field so I could try to find my stride took its toll on me both physically and mentally.  I became annoyed nearly from the beginning of the race by...well, pretty much everything: groups from the same charity running 4 across in the middle of the road, walkers at mile 1 in the middle of the road, large numbers of runners wearing headphones that couldn't hear me coming up on them and saying "excuse me" or letting them know I was passing on one side of them.  Some things I think I had a right to be annoyed at, some things I was just annoyed at because I was already in a lousy state of mind and wasn't doing much to combat it.

I did my best to persevere and try to stay near my goal pace and, for the first 10 miles, did reasonably well at that, ranging from 8:18-8:59 pace during that time.  There's not a lot to write home about for those first 10, with few opportunities for large crowds of spectators and not a whole lot to look at.  Personally, the Wellesley Scream Tunnel is about when the race starts to pick up for me in terms of spectator support.  Maybe I'd built it up too much in my head, but this years Scream Tunnel just didn't seem to have the...POP it has in years' past.  I did think it was fantastic that they made custom signs this year for runners, inviting people to submit what they wanted a sign to read.  My friend Kat (who ran 3:25!!) made this one for me, but sadly I didn't see it on the course.

10255644_618425518245927_6243367406006990728_n

Passing through the town center of Wellesley and the arch marking the halfway point, I knew that any hope of maintaining a semblance of the pace I was on was out the window.  The wheels may not have come off entirely, but they sure felt wobbly.  Knowing I had the hills coming up didn't help me mentally.

I think it was around Mile 15 that I took the first of what would be many walking breaks.  Part of the breaks had to do with pure fatigue, part of it was the calf cramps that kept on attacking me, causing me to flail my leg out like I'd been shot.  It was really all I could do to push myself to keep moving in a forward direction through the Newton Hills, losing time all along but never going backwards or stopping.  Here you can see some pretty sweet Pain Face and what happened with calf cramping.

Cram 3Cramp 2Cramp

Finally, I made it to the mile 20-ish mark where my mom, sister, and cousins were waiting for me and cheering exuberantly.  They got some great pictures too, where I somehow appear to be happy despite then telling them something along the lines of "I hate the marathon!"

10176276_10100122287711339_6589401003447351399_n

From there, I knew I only had 3-ish miles to go to get to Rebecca.  I wish I had something interesting to say about those miles other than the fact that they hurt.  They hurt a lot.  Finally, I made it to Rebecca, but I couldn't even get much out in the way of words, having been socked in a the gut by a wave of emotions  She did get a neat picture where she's pointing me out to our friends and I'm looking around trying to see the group cheering for me.

Becca Picture

I'll confess, up until this point I wanted to quit the race a number of times.  I wanted to quit at the halfway point, at a med tent on Heartbreak Hill, at mile 20 when I saw my family, and again at mile 23 when I saw my wife, not to mention a number of times in between.  Despite these impulses, one thought sustained me and kept me moving, namely that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other runners who were going through, or had gone through, much worse adversity than I was currently experiencing, not to mention the thousands of people who would have loved to have gotten a bib and had the privilege of my suffering, and here I was, thinking of quitting because I was in pain and unhappy with my pace.  How could I ever use the phrase "Boston Strong" again if I proved myself to be Boston Weak?  Plus, there was no way Rebecca was going to let me quit once I saw her with 5K to go.

Because I have no idea where this occurred on the course, I'm going to include this picture of me apparently being chased by a Walker from The Walking Dead here.

Walker

Ironically, though in years' past the BC kids lining the course basically until the end have normally been my nemesis.  Too loud.  Too obnoxious.  Too many.  This year though, they were awesome.  They were loud and raucous, but encouraging in a way that made me want to respond to them by pushing myself.  Even when I couldn't run, I at least tried to give them a thumb's up to acknowledge their cheers and let them know they were making a difference.

At last, I hit Hereford St. and then, Boylston St.  I have to say, it is a LONG way on Boylston St.  The fact that you don't even hit Mile 26 until you've gone a bit on it is disheartening in and of itself.  More disheartening though was that I couldn't run the whole way, like I desperately wanted to.  Apparently at some point I did manage to break into a semblance of a run for a short period of time though, not that I have any idea where this picture was taken.  Suffice it to say that, at some point during this race, I looked like a runner.

Flying

Despite 26.15 miles of discomfort, when the finish line came into view, I was able to muster some energy to make sure I got a finisher's picture I could be psyched about.

Hands Up

I'll have a future post with some reflections on this year's marathon, some good, some bad, but I don't want to sully this post with negative musings.  I will use it to announce my retirement from the marathon distance though.  It's just not a distance that seems to agree with me like others do.  Of course, I've said that before, so who knows.  Still, if that's my last finisher's picture of a marathon, I can say with all honesty that I will be at peace with it.  I'll still have these memories to treasure.

3 Marathons
Go like never before, my friends.