Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Boston Marathon Weekend

My taper week in preparation for Boston was extremely busy at work due to my company (Camco Manufacturing) purchasing a new company and being part of the transition. The focus on business was a blessing, as I did not have time to think about the race. I did some short runs to stay fresh and for the first time I arrived at a marathon with a successful 2-week taper. In the past, I have worried about doing a little more during the 2 weeks before the race and have, in hindsight, took away from my race performance. I have always heard the saying but have not followed the advice:

“It is better to show up 90% trained than to be 1% over trained and tired”

I rode with my running buddy, Kathi Russo, from Salisbury to the airport and met my new running buddy, Diane Allen from Charlotte. This year’s race was be Kathi’s 7th and Diane’s 4th. Their job was to keep me focused and pointed in the right direction. I am so thankful they allowed me to hang out with them as the crowds were so large it was intimidating to navigate the weekend and race. In the baggage claim area at the Boston airport, I talked with one of my heroes- Caleb Masland. Caleb is a super nice guy, professional runner and coach from Boone, NC. He is one of the high profile runners with Skechers besides the winner of the Boston Marathon, Meb Keflezighi. The shoes I was wearing were Skechers Ultra to walk around in during the weekend; he helped designed, which is cool. You can follow Caleb and his training on DailyMile.Com or at his website:

Once we arrived and checked in, we went to the Runner’s Expo, which is humongous. Every company that has anything to do with exercise (clothing, shoes, nutrition, training, gifts, etc) is there to give out samples, advice and sell stuff. I went by the Skechers booth and said hello to the crew. I thanked them for the gear and shoes I would be wearing during the race. I received my race bib and got my race packet, which included a nifty long sleeve Boston Marathon Shirt. I purchased the orange official 2014 Jacket and noticed how many runners keep adding the other years they run the marathon to their jacket. One of the many things that got my attention was the atmosphere of being around 32,000 people who are excited about running, fitness, and life. I cannot imagine anyone coming away from this experience without being more excited about what is possible and hope I can continue to work smart with my fitness and have fun.  


We saw a bunch of people from the Charlotte area including Joe Schlereth and Kathy Lee. Joe is a hero of mine. This Boston marked his 300th marathon and 45 of his “marathons” are 100-mile ultras. Over the course of his running career, he's posted six top-10 finishes at the Western States 100-mile endurance run; 10 finishes at Western States in less than 24 hours. He won the Wasatch 100; and he completed Badwater, the approximately 135-mile run from Death Valley (the lowest point in the continental U.S.) to Mt. Whitney (the highest). In 2006, he ran over 9000 miles which is approx 170 miles a week. Kathy Lee just finished her second 100 mile race at the Umstead Race recently. An awesome achievement I hope one today to complete.


Sunday morning, I attended a race strategy with Dr. Mark Cucuzzella who consistently runs under 2:50 marathons and has won the Air Force Marathon. His comments were to be conservative in the first half and focus on maintaining energy during the work of the marathon (Miles 16 to 21) and give it all you’ve got from mile 22 to the finish. He reiterated how important is to run quietly on the down hills to save your quads for the end of the race. I know of Mark from listening to the Ultra Runner Podcast. His is a frequent contributor. Mark is also a big proponent of heart rate training to increase the speed of your aerobic base. Mark owns “2 River Treads” running store in Shepherdstown, WV. The store website is a great source of running information.


Sunday night, I was fortunate to be able to attend a dinner with Kathi that had Amby Burfoot (Editor of Runner’s World and Winner of the ’68 Boston Marathon) and Jeff Galloway (’72 Olympic Team with Prefontaine). It was a round table discussion with funny running stories.  




Once we left the Athlete Village, we lined up in our corrals based on our qualifying time. The race started once four helicopters flew over our heads heading to Boston. It only took them 4 minutes to get there where I would need 3 hours. The first 2 miles seemed like it was going straight downhill. It is hard to know how severe the decline is as all you can see are runners’ heads ahead. There were so many runners in the streets because the majority of the race is run on a 2 lane road through the small towns leading to Boston. I never had more than a foot of space on the sides or front of me for the first 9 miles. Passing others was just not possible. Every mile there is a Gatorade and water station, which takes more space from the runners on the road. Every step I had to watch and make sure I was not tripping anyone or being tripped. Usually I race with a small group because I am not with the elites and nor with the joggers so I am used to having plenty of room. I had a headache by mile 10 from concentrating every step. The race turned unseasonable warm and I noted by mile 12, I was no longer perspiring. I knew not perspiring is one of the early signs of dehydration and overheating. I removed my shirt and doused myself with water at most water stations. The crowds were so loud. It is hard to explain the intensity of volume. The fans are literally right beside the 2-lane road we were running on. They are screaming 3 feet from your head and trying to get “high fives” from all the runners. There were many great homemade signs along the course to keep my attention. I did not realize how small the little towns are we ran in and how important the race is to their community. Many of the volunteers mentioned the race was the biggest day of the year. Every business is closed for Patriots Day each year. At mile 12, I noticed the volume from the fans started getting even louder as we were coming to Wellesley College. Those girls holding signs asking for kisses can be heard from a mile away.



At the halfway point, I was at 1:29 which was a minute slower, as I had hoped for a sub 3 hour race. Between the crowded field and being concerned about going out too fast, I did not hit my goal time for the first half, which was 1:28.

When I reached mile 16, I knew the work was getting ready to start as I noticed the bobbing heads in front of me were rising up which meant the hills were coming. The first two of the four famed hills near Newton were not steep but once you passed over the crest, you went quickly downhill which caused my quads to scream for relief. The third hill and Heart Break are gradual inclines that last for almost a half mile and are then once again steep down hills. I passed many people on the hills and felt my quads starting to cramp on the down hills. At mile 21, I passed Boston College and they had a huge sign saying “the heart break is over.” I tried to get back to marathon pace of 6:47 for the rest of the way and was not able to get back to goal pace. It was not my cardio system that held me back; it was my muscles in my legs. I had worked so hard doing squats and lunges daily with hill repeats weekly and it still was not enough. I saw the famous CITGO sign at mile 24 and knew once I passed the sign I had a mile left so I really leaned forward and was able to get back to a 6:50 pace. At mile 24, the crowds grew even more in size and volume. It seemed like the fans were 10 deep along the race route. Once I made the left onto Boylston Street, I could see the end. My pace got much faster as I ran as hard as I could to the finish line and completed my first Boston Marathon in 3:00:44.




After the race, I hobbled to my hotel with my medal and fond memories. I was a little sad to have reached my goal which I had only dreamed of 3 years ago. I have run daily with the goal being able to run in the Boston Marathon. I am hopeful Keith, Stu, Caleb and Victor will qualify this year (Lehigh Valley Marathon in early September) so I can run with them in 2015.

Gear Used:

·         NUNN- electrolyte drink mix to hydrate before and after the race

·         UCAN (Super Starch) before the start

·         VESPA (Amino Acid to promote fat burning) before the start

·         3 Espresso Hammer Gels during the race

·         Skechers Go Run 3

·         Skechers Singlet- same one Meb wore
The cost for the trip came out to around $1,100 with entry fee, airfair, hotels, expo and transportation


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Days until the Boston Marathon

One week before Boston and I am back to 100% fitness wise. 2 weeks ago my left shin has been moaning and I have been getting my cardio workouts in by doing stair stepping, rowing and elliptical for an hour a day. I have been saving my legs for running long runs on Saturday and Sunday. Ice and exercising without running has cut my recovery time down. It seems like forever since I have watched a 30-minute comedy without having an ice pack on my shins. I am at a very different mental place with regard to my goals at Boston than where I have been in past marathons. Instead of focusing so much on my goal race time, I am trying to be happy with just doing my best. As I tell my sons, as long as I can look at the mirror at the end of the day and say “I gave it my best” then that is all you can do. Getting shin splints 4 weeks before the race was not part of the script but I did my best working around it. Nobody, I repeat nobody, cares about my race time other than me. Even my running friends (who are focused on pace and time) just want me to have a good time, not get hurt and enjoy myself. I am traveling with Kathi Russo who is making her 6th straight appearance. She is an accomplished runner in Salisbury and is a running mentor to me. She is going to guide me in making sure I get to the starting line on time.

I ran the Elizabeth 8K race in Charlotte 2 weeks ago as part of a 20-mile long run and was happy with my effort. I was surprised to see 4 of the top 8 finishers were over 40 years old. I came in eighth overall with a time of 31:30 (6:20 pace per mile). I did not even place in the Masters Division. I did win my age group (45 to 50 years); who knew so many old people like me were going to attend the race.  I ran 5 miles as a warm-up so it might have hurt my race time but the point of the race was to push myself and focus on speed. I look forward to running more local 5K’s as part of long runs (20+ miles) on the weekend. There is no feeling like a 5K race when I am running out of air and have a half mile to go. Steve Prefontaine used to say about short races, “The winner today will be the one who is willing to hurt the most.”
I have started running in a new shoe named Skechers GoRun 3. The GoRun 3 cushioned shoe is light as a feather. The heel to drop ratio is 4% and can be lower if you do not use the foam insert. It has a wide toe box. I will be running in this pair in the Boston Marathon (Monday, April 21st). Runner’s World gave the GoRun 3 their Best Buy Running Shoe Award for Spring 2014. The are reasonably price for a premium running shoe at only $85 vs. $130 with other brands.



I am still jumping rope as part of my cross training and am always looking for new ways to cross train & increase my cardio base. I maxed out at 82 miles a week in preparation for Boston and am am enjoying tapering for the race.
Pacing seems to be a big challenge at Boston as most runners average 6 to 8 minutes difference between the first and second half. Mile 16 to 21 are where the hills come in and if you run much faster than your goal pace on the first 13 miles, there is a high risk of fatiguing your quads and not being able to maintain your pace when you get to the hills late in the race. I have read numerous times to run hard downhill in preparation to stress the quads so they will be strong during the first half of the race. I have been doing 3 mile hill repeats at the end of my long runs (18 miles +).  I am actually getting good and flying down the hills without breaking and slowing down. I just take a longer stride and feel like I am falling down by leaning into the slope with no extra effort like I did as a kid.
I enjoy running with my buddies who run at different paces but sometimes the pace is really slow (more than 2 minutes per mile slower than my marathon pace), so I have been thinking about how I can still run with others while keeping my heart rate in my aerobic zone (140 to 150bpm). I found a pair of 1.5lb weights in my basement that attaches to your hands and tried wearing them while running this week. I initially thought, how much is a 1.5lb weight going to affect the easy run? Wow- swinging the weights back and forth especially on the hills as I was pumping my elbows enabled my heart rate stay in the desired zone while recovery running. My chest, shoulders, and arms were letting me know by the end that they did not agree to the new fitness routine. I will continue to use them on easy recovery running days.

I just finished a good book named the “The Longest Run” by Ed Ayers. The book describes his evolution as a person and runner and uses the backdrop of the JFK 50 Mile Race held each fall. Ayers is a senior runner now and won the JFK when he was younger. The JFK 50 Mile was created after President Kennedy was concerned the U.S. citizens were getting mentally soft and not being fit. Kennedy thought all members of the armed forces should be able to walk 50 miles over 1 day. Bobby Kennedy completed the race. Eventually the race was opened to all. Some of the trail race is run on the Appalachian Trail and around the battlegrounds of the Civil War outside of DC. I enjoyed the book from the perspective of how we can continue to enjoy running for a lifetime once the days of new personal records are behind us.
Last week, I was in Vancouver BC working at a customer show and had the opportunity to run. The city is so clean and beautiful with the mountains in the background. They have a paved running/ biking trail on the water front that goes around the city. The SeaWall is over 40 miles long and I was able to run the entire trail over the weekend. I tried to stay on east coast time during the trip so I ran in the dark (4am-7am) each day and always felt completely safe. Great place to watch the sun rise.



I look forward to updating my little blog when I get back from Boston and begin getting ready for my 24 hour race in May. I am grinning just thinking about the possibilities of moving for 24 hours and finding out what lies deep inside of me. The farthest I have ever run is 54 miles so the idea of going 100 miles seem so outrageous. I look forward to doing some back-to-back 25 mile runs on Saturday and Sunday to get my body ready. At this point, I have no idea how to prepare mentally for this type of event. Every day when I am out running and feel pain, I think about what is to come and it helps to focus my mind on other things (family, work, etc).  Nine times of ten when I change what I am thinking about the pain goes away. I am intrigued by the notion of how important mental strength will be at a 24 hours loop race. It will be a learning experience as I get out of my comfort zone at the Black Mountain Monster 6, 12 and 24 hour race.