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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon Race Report...a little late, huh?

Well, this race...or situation...was a first for me. Second marathon in a season. MCM came 6 weeks on the heels of the Erie Marathon where, if you (yeah you - the lone reader of this here blog) recall, I scored my first Boston Marathon Qualifying time (3:09:47 - 13 seconds to spare!). So post Erie, my training was sporadic at best. As a friend of ours stated the other day, I take my recovery seriously! I like to say that I rarely miss a rest/recovery day ;). I got in one 16 mile two weeks prior to MCM and I think at that point I thought to myself that I could maybe come close to matching Erie's performance. The problem being, I lacked a major element that I normally have an abundance of in my arsenal - motivation! MCM was my 6th marathon and the previous 5 had all been PRs (yeah, the first one counts as a PR too!). That lack of motivation to either PR or chase a BQ I truly believe hindered my performance and allowed me to slack off a bit in my effort.
Race day came and luckily we avoided the major winds and rain (all the rain, but there was quite a bit of wind) that accompanied Hurricane Sandy (one day later and we could have been either cancelled or miserable). A friend of ours (Julie) decided she wanted to run with me. She just 4 weeks prior ran a PR of 3:20 at Wineglass (oh by the way, my kick ass wife finished 3rd overall there with a 3:01!!!) and decided she wanted to go sub 3:20 at MCM. I had planned on going out at a 7:25 pace and see where I stood at the halfway point. At 13.1, I was on track for a 3:15 (not a PR, but something I was going to be ok with). Unfortunately, the head win at the turn around at Hains Point was pretty stiff and I started to fall off pace. Julie soon fell back at about 14 or 15 and I was then running solo without anyone to push (who in turn would help push me). The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful (although my friend Dan paced me in the final 6 - Thanks Dan! - and I'm pretty sure he was very happy to be done with me because I'm pretty sure I complained non-stop!), except when I saw my in-laws with my daughters at 19.5! That was a huge pick-me-up, but unfortunately, I was on cruise control at that point and just wanted to be done.
I finally finished in 3:20:31 and a few weeks later I'm still unsure of how I feel about this. I'm either ok with it or disappointed...I just can't figure out which. I can say this...I don't like NOT PR'ing and I plan on doing that in Boston in April! I have a big spring/summer planned and if I want to make any kind of a splash, I need to start getting myself in order ASAP!
I can tell you this though, I LOVE the big races a lot more than the little ones! MCM is my hometown marathon more or less and the crowds are absolutely fantastic! I just wish I had given more in return. MCM should definitely be on every marathoner's must do race list!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Weeks Until Marine Corps Marathon!

Well, this is a first for me. Two marathons in one season. MCM is six weeks after Erie, but it is coming up quicker than I'd like! Saturday I put in a 16 miler and while it felt like a tough effort, I averaged a 7:43 pace (I've been averaging about 8:10s or slower for long runs) which probably contributed to it feeling like a tough effort... I didn't realize I was running this fast for much of the run and on the way home only then did I realize the overall average was fairly fast (at least for me). This has resulted in some positive and negative thoughts going through my head. On the one hand, I knocked out my first semi-long run since Erie with relative ease (I could have kept going if I had to, but really didn't see a point since I am only 2 weeks out) and my pace was well below my long run target pace. That said, I just haven't put in the miles since Erie. I'm not sure how this will affect me come race day. Let's hope for some fresh legs! I still need to figure out how fast I plan on running too!

Monday, September 24, 2012

BQ Baby!!! Erie Marathon Race Report!

It wasn't easy...in fact the last couple miles were downright painful and the most brutal stretch of running I've ever completed. But I did it. Finally got that elusive Boston Marathon Qualifying Time!

With the new time standards set by the Boston Athletic Association, I'd have to go 3:10:00 or better for the 35-39 age group. That meant close to a five minute pr for me (I ran a 3:14:50 at the 2011 Chicago Marathon). I strategically picked the Erie Marathon based on the date and also that it was said to be a flat and fast course. Since Erie is within driving distance for me, I decided this was the one to do. If everything worked out perfectly, I'd qualify on Sunday and on Monday, Boston registration would reopen for all qualifers (the previous week was the first week of registration for those with qualifying times under 20 minutes, 10 minutes, and 5 minutes - 3 different days - better than qualifying time). Soon enough we had a bit of a crew from my running group that would make the 6 hour trek up to Northwest Pennsylvania.
I was very lucky to have a friend of mine volunteer to pace me at the race. He's a 2:46ish marathoner so this would be an easy training run for him. We drove up on Saturday morning, stopped at Olive Garden for lunch (it was lovely), hit the "expo" (two "booths"), and then stayed for the pasta dinner put on by the Erie Running Club.

Let me add a sidebar to this post...The Erie Marathon is an EXCELLENT race - and not just for those looking to run a BQ. It is extremely well organized, excellent "schwag" (ok, I probably will use the long sleeve T as a throw away at another race, but I just don't do cotton anymore - snob - but I WILL wear the socks we got in the race bag (also a reusable shopping bag - bonus!), excellent CHEAP pasta dinner ($10), water stops just about every mile, and a $40 entry fee which I have to say is unheard of!

Ok, back to the story ;) So anyway, we have dinner, and then to the hotel to check in, unpack, and get some sleep. Sleep as usual didn't come easy and after a night of unrest, it was time to get up and get ready. I drank the Personal Best Nutrition Breakfast Cocktail (Infinit Mud plus EFS Kona Mocha Liquid Shot), banana, and coffee before heading over to the park. About 45 minutes pre-race, I began sipping on a bottle of First Endurance EFS with a scoop of First Endurance's Pre-race (HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS STUFF!!!). I took care of business, watched Al Pacino's pre-game speech from Any Given Sunday (yeah, it fires me up - sue me!), and then it was time to head to the start.

The course is a two loop course (also a one loop half) in Presque Isle Park right on Lake Erie. The first half Ken wanted me to hold back a bit. This is definitely a bit different than I'm used to. My normal race plan for a marathon has me go a couple seconds faster than goal pace to give me a some time in the bank. I know this isn't exactly what many suggest, but just what has worked for me. Get some time in the bank and then hold on at the end! The first couple miles were definitely slower than I expected (7:35, 7:27), but Ken told me we were doing what we needed to do. By mile five, we were only running about a 7:22 pace overall. Seemed to me that we really needed to pick things up, but Ken never seemed worried - in fact, he told me to pull it back on a few occassions. I figured he knows what he's doing so I'm not going to second guess him. Overall, the first half went very smooth and the effort didn't seem to be too taxing. At the halfway point, we managed to get down to 1:35:15 pace so there wouldn't be too much to make up. I felt much better about where we were than I had earlier in the race. The second loop, it started getting warmer, but the park provides quite a bit of shade which certainly helps keep the temps down. That said, through the second loop I could definitely feel myself getting warmer and was hoping not to overheat too bad (I eventually bagged the shirt to stay as cool as possible at about mile 24). At about mile 16 I started to feel like I had to start working harder. Paces were on point and through mile 20, we had made up a lot of time and were averaging about a 7:13 pace and had about 20 seconds in the bank. I was definitely starting to feel it at this point, but still was able to hold the pace. At mile 21, things started to hurt and the pace dropped to 7:22. Uh oh...starting to LOSE time. At this point in the race is where Ken goes from being supportive pacer to first class asshole/lunatic/motivator/bully. That said, it's probably exactly what I needed. Miles 23 and 24 were back on goal pace, but mile 25 I was back to losing time running a 7:21 pace. Ken is going absolutely apeshit at this point and telling me he needs me to give just 1% more than what I'm currently giving and I don't have anything left in the time bank! Somehow I manage to pick it up again and I run the final 1.2 at a 7:01 pace and finishing 13 seconds under qualifying time!

Post race I'm really struggling, but happy to have done it. Not much time to spare, but I did what I set out to do. BQ and a 5:03 PR! On a side note, the second place woman came up to us afterwards to give congratulations and tell me she's really glad Ken wasn't pacing her "because when he started running backwards, I would have punched him in the face!" Yes...at more than one point, Ken was yelling at me while he ran FASTER than me BACKWARDS!

Big thanks to Ken for the push and motivation. I could have done it without him, but I'm not sure I would have done it without him... Active Ambassadors, Personal Best Nutrition (not sponsored by them or anything, but Brian provides excellent info and top notch customer service!), and of course my wife and daughters! My wife had no doubt I could do it and during those tough last couple miles, I thought about her and her confidence in me and it helped me not quit (I really, really, really wanted to just stop for a couple seconds and "regroup" but so glad I didn't...no seconds to spare!).

For anyone looking for a nice flat and fast course with a small marathon feel yet run smoother than any big name marathon (with better "extras"), then definitely give the Erie Marathon a shot!

Monday, September 10, 2012

T-minus 6 days until the Erie Marathon!

Crap...down to the wire. Time to put up or shutup. Shooting for the ever-elusive Boston Qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. If I put it on my blog will it happen? Well, here's hoping this works. I WILL run 3:09:30 or BETTER! To be continued...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Eagleman Race Report!

Ok, so I've been slacking big time on the blog front and I still need to whip up my Columbia Race Report, but I want to knock out my thoughts on Eagleman while they are still fresh.

I wasn't in a big rush to head to Cambridge Saturday. My cousin was coming up with me and we ended up staying at his parents beach place in Fenwick. I didn't realize it was as far away as it ended up being, but didn't turn out to be a big deal. I went to my daughter's soccer game in the morning, and then the family went to the pool. I took the opportunity to get a few laps in with a couple hard 50s thrown in. Nothing major, but I felt like I wanted to swim a bit. The swim ALWAYS gets me worked up...I have no idea why because this is definitely my strength in a tri, but I think this is because I always got so nervous pre-swim race as a kid and it has just carried over.

I headed home to pack the car about 1:45 or so. My cousin got to our house shortly after, and eventually I had everything packed up. We finally got on the road at about 2:45 and were rolling. We went straight to check in and were there by 4:30 and got to see Mirinda Carfrae heading out as we walked in. Good stuff ;)! We didn't stay long, although my cousin bought himself a new tri-kit so I had to wait for him to try it on. Also talked with the Aero Hammock guys since I had a hard time getting my bottle back in at Columbia. He recommended a quick and easy way to drop it in and come race day, it worked like a charm!

We then headed to transition to rack the bike. I get to the entry to transition and I can't get in without my sticker for my bike. Good times. Back to the car to get sticker and then back to transition. Finally get bike in and racked. Walk over to the water to check it out - looked pretty calm, always good - and then back on the road. I figured we'd get to my aunt and uncle's place by 6, but it ended up being closer to 7 - definitely later than I wanted/planned. Had a good spaghetti and meatball dinner (with some Italian sausage thrown in for good measure), a piece of cherry pie, and eventually made my way to bed (after 10 - NOT GOOD). As is becoming custom pre-tri, terrible nights sleep. I mean I think I may have gotten an hour total. I could be wrong, but I felt like I was up forever.

At 3:45 the alarm goes off. I get up, get my bottles ready, eat a banana, make bagel with natural PB, bathroom, and hit the road. Getting back to Cambridge was a breeze and a quick stop at a gas station for some coffee and back on the road. Amazing, just the aroma of the coffee seemed to get my digestive system pumping. We parked at the middle school and jumped on the shuttle. Very easy parking and shuttle system and it seemed very efficient. I did get to give everyone some good news on the bus - the race would be wetsuit legal! That went over very well with my bus mates. Columbia Triathlon Association sent out a tweet early Sunday morning with the status and I was pleased this would be the case! Jumped off the bus, dropped my stuff in transition, and headed over to the bathroom lines. There were two very long lines for the bathrooms, but I think this made it more effecient and they moved very quickly and I didn't stand there worrying about choosing the wrong line as always seems the case. Took care of business, set up transition area and only issue I had was the night before I fooled with one of my cleats so I had trouble getting it on my pedal and eventually said screw it and decided I'd just run with shoes on out of transition. I finally was done just as transition was about to close and I headed out to sunscreen up and relax/hydrate for a bit...and also see the pros hit T1. Cool watching them come in and roll out!

Swim: 30:41 My swim wave start was at 7:34 and it seemed to be that time in no time. Put my wetsuit on as late as I could because it was already so warm. Zipped up, saw a couple friends, and hit the water. By now I was feeling pretty good and just figured I would "cruise" the swim. The gun went off quicker than I'd expected, and we were off. I had lined myself up in the front in the middle and not many had been too close at the start. This made things pretty calm through the first couple hundred meters. I was a bit more "left" than I had wanted to be throughout the swim, but I hit the first turn right at the bouy and the second as well. I didn't do much drafting and I'm not sure I like it. I know it's supposed to help, but I don't like making contact and I don't like being contacted either. I also don't feel like I know if I'm going fast enough because I feel like I'm just waiting on the person in front of me. So for the most part, I swam alone with only some contact with other swimmers here and there. My fingers finally found the floor of the water and I stood up to run out. Looked at my watch and it said what I thought was 34:XX - 4 minutes faster than last year. My watch had been sketchy the last day and not showing all the lines on the numbers, but somehow I realized it was 30:XX! EIGHT minutes faster than last year. With that said, last year I think may have been long and also non-wetsuit so I'm not sure how legit those 8 minutes are... Also not going to complain either!

T1: 2:22 In and out of transition in 2:22 (not too bad with the full wetsuit on and putting on bike shoes in transition) and on the bike.

Bike: 2:43:46 As is per usual post swim, my heart rate was HIGH. It stayed in the mid 150s for a while. I wanted to keep the heart rate much lower (low 140s) for the first hour, but I'm guessing it was probably closer to 150 for that first hour (still have to upload the Garmin and figure out if I can edit it because I didn't stop in when I came back into transition). Through 3 miles I was only behind my goal pace of 20mph by 30 seconds or so and figured I could get there if the winds cooperated. I eventually got my overall pace over 20 and began to bank time. Through 40 miles or so, I was well on track and looking forward to heading home. While I was still getting passed quite a bit, I did feel like it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been the previous year. And much fewer women this year :). My wife can still kick my ass in running so I'm ok with getting chicked :) I even caught a few people towards the end that had passed me earlier on. As we got to Egypt Rd though, my pace definitely slowed and a bit of a headwind hit. I had trouble staying above 20 at this point, but I tried to press on. One bonus of this is my Garmin was a full mile behind the 10 mile markers by 40 miles so that was a nice bonus to see and I was soon at the final turn and heading in...15 minutes faster than last year! 20.5 mph average too!

Bike nutrition: 2 bottles of EFS with half scoop of Pre Race, 1 EFS Liquid shot, 2-3 bottles of water.

T2: 2:02 I will say I had a very good rack spot this year so transitions were easy in and out. I had slipped out of my shoes on the final stretch of the ride and I racked the bike, turned on my garmin 305 (was going to put this on as I ran out), shoes on, helmet off, hat on, and we're off...20 feet later I realized I forgot the 305 at transition. I just decided to say screw it. Since I didn't have the Garmin to gauge heart rate anyway, I took it off and threw it down just outside the finish line so hopefully I'd be able to grab it post race.

Run: 1:45:54 As I ran out, my cousin yells that if I can run about a 1:42, I had a chance at breaking 5 hours. This was my HUGE goal. The plan was to go out at 8 min/mile pace for the first two miles and adjust to a faster pace if I could. Well, that idea went out the window with no Garmin to "pace" me so I just ran by feel. I saw my buddy Big Al Navidi a half mile or so in and he tells me he'll see me in an hour...YEAH RIGHT! Soon after I hit the 1 mile marker at 7:30. Ok, faster than I planned, but feeling good. Mile 2, 7:36...ok, still quick, but pace feels good. This continued through the first half and the miles became a bit slower each one by 10 seconds or so, BUT I ran through all the water stops through the first half and never walked the water stops until after mile 8. I figured it was important to hydrate as much as possible and to ice up as well. I carried an EFS Liquid Shot with me on the run, but just couldn't stomach more sugar. I forced myself to start taking Gatorade and I had decided pre-race I was going to try Coke this time to see what happened (or Pepsi in the case of Eagleman). I wanted to wait until the second half before I made the move and decided at the water stop at mile 8 I would pull the trigger. The thought of sugar had me nervous, but I decided to water it down and drink it. This was probably a good idea and I felt pretty good post Coke. This continued through the remaining run stops and while I was very hot and tired, I felt relatively "good." I finally got to the final mile and tried to pick it up. I saw Big Al again with a half mile or so to go and he asked me what I thought my time would be. I told him if I could hold on, I had a shot at sub 5:05. I worried I'd lock up or something with just a few hundred meters to go, but it never happened. I was moving well, but not trying to kill myself and I knew, unless my watch was really jacked up, that I was going to go under 5:05. I come into the final stretch and high five every kid/adult that I see with a hand up and someone yells for me that I can catch the older gentleman in front of me. Well, I know I'm going to go under 5:05 and I could catch him if I wanted to, I figured I'd let him have the spotlight as he finished and I'd be able to be solo as I crossed. Well, about 10 yards from the finish, the guy stops running! Well, I'm not stopping and I run across, hit my watch and finish in 5:04:45! The run was almost 15 minutes faster than last year too! So close to sub 5 hours, but I'm not complaining!

Overall, a great day. No cramping issues and only real problems post race are some blisters and chafing from my saddle and probably being soaking wet on the run (really not sure why I was having saddle issues since I've felt great on it all year, but whatever). Didn't get to do too much post race as I had to get home for dinner with the in-laws, but I wanted to get in the AC anyway and sit! Now, time for a bit of a break, and time to start thinking of the next 70.3 and SUB 5 hours!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is this thing on? Rock 'n' Roll USA Race Report

Well, I've taken to slacking on the blog thing, but I think writing race reports is a good way to at minimum learn and look back to see how I can improve for future races. Things have been pretty busy with training, grad school, and most importantly, family time making blogging the least of my priorities. On to the recap...

I got all of the logistical stuff out of the way (packet pickup) on Thursday so that left Friday with just work and no pressure to get anything done. Saturday, we got up about 10 minutes late due to a bit of an alarm snafu, but nothing major and we were out the door by 6 which was our goal.

We arrived at RFK about 6:45 with plenty of time to spare. As we walked towards the Armory to drop off our gear, we ran into our friend Brad who incidentally was also planning on pacing me. We hit the port-o-pots real quick, and then went to the Armory. There we saw a few others from our running crew and caught up with them for a few. We dropped our bags, completely lost Julie, and then decided to hit the bathrooms once again before the start. The lines took a bit and we had to jog to the start as to not miss it and get caught up with the masses. This was probably a good move to help get the juices flowing. What do you know...one towards the front, we saw Julie and a bunch of other friends. Then Chrissy, Brad, and I moved up towards the back of the first corral and after the National Anthem, we were soon off.

Mile one was pretty much as planned. Backing up a bit, I had a goal of sub 1:30. My previous PR is a 1:33:47 set in September at the Parks Half Marathon. I know I've been training well for this (and my tris coming up), but some of my fast paced workouts seemed a bit too labored to me. For the Rock n Roll, I wanted to go out at 7:10, 7, and then onto 6:50 pace for the remainder and hopefully have enough to make up the slower first couple miles in the last mile or two. Through the first four or five miles things were going well. At about the mile 4 point, there is a turn around and we saw Chrissy up ahead of us a bit. She was looking great, but I was worried we were so close (she wasn't "racing" per se, but looking to run strong and hopefully PR along the way - at least faster than her Parks PR). We then began to hit some decent hills and keeping pace began getting tougher. At the half way point I was only 2 seconds off of my goal so that was good - but unfortunately, that began to get higher. At mile 10, I hit my 10 mile PR at about 1:09:04. That's over two minutes faster than the 10 mile mark at Parks. I knew I was going to be close to getting my PR, but at this point, things began to get tough. I hit mile 11 on an uptick picking up a few precious seconds (even though my Garmin read significantly long for this portion), but I was now off by about 20 seconds or so. Mile 13 had a nice downhill and through some nice "encouragement" (taunting more like it) from Brad, I really picked it up on 13. Thankfully it was downhill and I let gravity do its job. As we approached the end of 13, we turned up towards the finish and the f'n course starts going uphill. I somehow dug deep enough to run a 6:21 pace over the final 1.13 miles (definitely more than .1 AFTER the 13 mile marker). I hit stop on my watch, only to see this...
I'm usually not quick on the trigger so I was pretty sure I'd manage to sneak under 1:30...which I ultimately did and finished with a new PR of 1:29:58!

Pacer/motivator/taunter Brad and me at the finish.

As far as nutrition during the race, I took water and Gatorade at all of the stops. I also grabbed a Gu around mile 8, but I just took a very small bit of that. My stomach just was not in the mood for it. I'm not sure I needed one, but I kind of wish I could have taken one in. I used EFS Liquid Shot at Chicago and I wanted one for this race, but couldn't get my hands on one before the race. But I plan to have it on hand for the next race and hope that makes a difference and helps me feel a bit better towards the end.

Once the race was over, Chrissy and some of our running crew were waiting at the end. Chrissy Rocked it once again, coming in with a 1:28:01 (man she's pissed at those 2 seconds!)!
Women's 35-39 First Place baby!
She wasn't going all out though since she's a month out from Boston, but she did manage to once again claim top honors in her age group (once a little bit of controversy clears up - I don't think men are supposed to be in the women's 35-39 age group, but I could be wrong...).

All in all, I'm very pleased with my results and according to McMillan, that puts me at a 3:09:44 marathon - BQ! Well, I'll still have to go out and actually run that fast, but it's nice to see that I should be able to do it!

2 months til Columbia and then another three til Eagleman!

The XMP Crew