Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year in Review

2019 distance run:   1,538 miles
Total distance run since 2004:   21,538 miles

The year was an interesting one, with some real highs and some forgettable moments. 

First, the numbers.   My miles for each month in 2019. 

Yikes!   Look at those ups and downs.    This captures the year.   The first three months were in final preparation for the Boston Marathon...March's 200+ miles was an all-time monthly record for me.  And I ran Boston on April 15. 

And then looked what happened.  A total falloff. 

In retrospect, it's not surprising.   I had shot for Boston for eight years.   Finally making it, I fell into a strange sense of goal-lessness.  I didn't even grasp it at the time but I really had a hard time dragging myself out of bed to train on way too many mornings through the summer and early fall.   October really wiped things out as I ended up with a nasty flu bug for three weeks. 

Remarkably, I re-calibrated in late November via a curious observation.   I shifted a habit I've held since beginning this era of running in May, 2004, specifically getting up at 5:15am to train.   This just got harder and harder.   I started trying running in the afternoon, instead...taking running gear to work, changing around 5pm in our small locker room, heading out on our city's running trails which go right by our plant and getting in my miles.   Remarkably, it seems to work.   I got the miles in, ran a 50K trail race comfortably on December 28 and I may well continue with this through the spring.   Summertime??  I'll need to get up early. 

Amazingly, 2019 was an improvement in total miles over 2018.

2018 had a time of injury from Plantar Fasciitis.  I'm pleasantly surprised 2019 improved over that.   And I'm hoping for more consistency in 2020, for sure.

Without a doubt, though, the highlight of the year, perhaps the highlight of my running hobby all-time was running in and finishing the Boston Marathon.  Two pix to wrap up the year of that special day. 

Have a great 2020, folks.



Sunday, December 29, 2019

Race Report: HUFF 50K Trail Race, 2019

Race Summary:
50K, 6:25:42 (12:25/mile pace)
    Lap 1:   3:02:47
    Lap 2:   3:22:54
Overall:   85th of 153
M 60-69:   6th of 11
Lifetime ultra/marathon finish #90

I ran The HUFF 50K trail race on December 28, 2019.   This is the ninth year in a row I’ve run this race and have 8 finishes and one DNF (in 2017, in scary cold temps, when I dropped after lap 1).  It’s two laps of a 15.5 mile course in Chain O Lakes State Park, not far from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The park is a giant glacial deposit and has an amazing amount of up and down...one of the few places in northern Indiana on which to run Real Hills.  (if you are interested, use the search function and you can find my other HUFF race reports)

I drove up on Friday afternoon, had a fitful night’s sleep in a mediocre motel but got to the race site by 6:15am and secured a primo parking spot well ahead of the 8:15am gun, with time to slowly eat some oatmeal, nap a bit and get set for a long day in the woods..  

I watched the day slowly enlighten and walked to the start grid.   

The gun went and the day proved wonderful.   The temp was just above freezing at the start, heading for the low 40s on the day, so I wore shorts and three layers on top with gloves...it worked fine, I was quite comfortable all day long.   The trails were in near-perfect condition; firm but not muddy, not slick at all, very runnable. Even in some of the lower points where water drained across the trail, there was little mud, only some short spots that were moist.   

Lap One was, as usual, quite social with the 50K runners chatting and enjoying the day.   The aid stations are nicely spaced and well-stocked. I tried to not spend much time at the aid stations, I intended to simply reload and get going.    This worked mostly, except for the time I saw the RD, whom I’ve known for a long time, and he’s the type of guy you can’t have a short chat with. But it was good to catch up with Mitch.  

Lap Two always stands in stark contrast to Lap One at the HUFF...once again, it was a solitary adventure.   I think I only saw three or four other runners for the entire 3+ hours, so spread was the field by then. I enjoy this, of course, and just kept going.   The winter woods were just beautiful, the scenes overlooking the lakes in the park were striking, the weather most pleasant.   

I only fell once Saturday...went down pretty hard around mile 6.   Fortunately, I landed on soft dirt and while my glasses got dirty, I avoided a full face plant.   Only damage was ripping up my bib on my shorts, which was easily re-pinned. I had a second near-miss around mile 19, one of those times where I caught my toe and then rumbled, bumbled, stumbled into the brush, struggling to stay on my feet.   I did stay up but that near-miss took more out of me than the actual fall at mile 6. I gave myself a couple of minutes to collect my wits and carry on both times and neither had a lasting effect. 

The Aid Station at Mile 24 is legendary around here for some terrific trail food.   It’s a point in the race where mental and physical reserves are often depleted and they restore both.   In prior years, hamburgers are the main attraction but this year, they upped their game and served bacon cheeseburgers with a pickle on a stick.  Marvelous!! I downed one and it was a treat.   Sorry for the fog on my lens but you get the idea.

The final miles went reasonably well.  Other than a low spot around mile 28 (when, on an uphill slog, I just wanted it to be over), I felt fine and enjoyed the chance to run.   One runner I did see engaged in an interesting conversation, as he had just BQed a few weeks ago, was running his first-ever ultra and we talked about that process and anticipation at length.     

I finally popped out of the woods, ran the final half mile around a lake and finished.   Nicely, my new friend finished about two minutes behind me and we got our photo together.   

Won another belt buckle, honoring a local cross country coach who passed away earlier this fall.  

One observation I made, having run this race so often, was how it is dropping in size.   Only about half of the finishers we've had before.   I could tell there were not nearly as many cars in the park or runners in the grid.   Similarly about half the number of volunteers as in the past.   I wonder if the organizers are tiring of this (it gets little publicity, perhaps relying on reputation?) or if runners are less interested?   Just interesting to observe over time.

So, a good day.   I ran well and that was the goal.   Encouraged. Thanks for listening.   

And, as always, persevere. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Race Report: Indy Monumental Marathon 2019

ORN:  26.2 miles, 5:15:27, at multiple paces. 

So here’s a summary of my experience in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on Saturday, November 9...it was Three-Act Play

Act 1:   Start to mile 7.5

The entire focus of this (and the ultimate point of the entire day) was a running adventure with my oldest son and his oldest son, our first grandson.   You may recall GS1, age 15, has gradually been running since about a year ago, first with spring track and then fall Cross Country. So my DIL suggested, strongly, earlier this fall he register to run this half marathon...and this was the day.   

The day was chilly, with temps in the upper 20s.  I was slightly concerned the cold weather would cause him to bail but he was totally game.   I met up with DS1 and GS1 a short ways from the start grid a half hour before the gun...from there we got in the back of the pack for the start.   GS1 seemed to really enjoy the entire experience...he was laughing and observing and generally enjoying it all

The race started and off we went.  We quickly settled into a comfortable pace, as DS1 correctly wanted to take on a pace which would allow GS1 to finish.   We agreed to take walk breaks as needed and generally enjoy the experience.   

So much fun happened, I don’t have time to bore you with all of it.   Suffice it to say, though, the conversation was lively and steady. As a Dad and Grandpa, I was deeply pleased to see the wonderful relationship my son has with his teenage son.   It was open and steady, without the edge which so easily can happen at that age.   

GS1’s longest single training run was just short of 5 miles...so once we got near that distance, he was in new territory.   Around mile 5, he reported his right leg was getting pretty sore. We took some walk breaks and then ran but it was choppy.   So, I asked him if he’d like to go to a regular pattern of running one minute and walking one minute. He was fine with that and it worked...we kept that pattern through the split point of the half and full.  His spirit improved and the chatter was back and it was terrific.   

We stopped for one more pic at the break, with hugs and smiles all round. 

They carried on and finished at exactly 3 hours for the HM with a good attitude...here’s a picture my DIL took of GS1 finishing, with the state capitol building in the background.   

Act 2  Mile 7.5 to Mile 19

Bidding farewell to my son/grandson, I then set out to see what my own pace felt like on this day.   It was quicker than what we had been running and I was steadily passing people. I felt comfortable, not pressing but just running.   I hit the half way mark at 2:35 and it felt slow but that was due to the slow pace early on.   

Around mile 14, I caught up with the 5 hour pacing group.  We were entering a narrow portion of the course so I just glommed on with them...the pace was fine and I figured it would be a five-hour race anyway.   

In this pack, I had some fun conversations, most notably with a guy a year older than me as we talked about “old guys who still run”.   He was happy to hear I had run Boston this year and I learned he too had run Boston....in 1971, as a 19 year old, when he ran 3:15!! I asked how many ran and he said they were all thrilled it was the Humongous total of 1,200 runners!!   What fun to talk to a guy with that kind of history, still out there running. 

We snaked through Butler University and the Art Park and down onto Fall Creek Parkway, when Act 2 abruptly ended.

Act 3:  Mile 19 to Finish

In a mere half mile, my race went from comfortable to painful.   My left quad very quickly started seizing up. I couldn’t stop it...it ground me to a mere walk.   Full blown cramping, leaving me looking like the Tin Man, stiffly moving along. With 7 miles to go, I wasn’t keen on having to walk it in so started thinking.   I realized I had made a serious tactical error the night before in that I decided, given the cold temps, I didn’t need to pack the usual electrolyte tabs I always bring along.   Dumb, Joe, very dumb. So, how to get electrolytes?? I started drinking from my handheld water bottle, which I had half Gatorade/half water. I gradually swallowed a Gu they had handed out, despite the fact it was mocha flavored and I hate coffee.   I reloaded with more Gatorade and found another Gu pack in a spare pocket. I restarted running on a 1/1 ratio, just as I had earlier with GS1.   

Gradually, the cramping subsided.   I kept the 1/1 ratio to mile 23, when I upped it to 2/1.   That held and I ran that way to the end.   

Finishing the race was a new experience..   I think this is the slowest road marathon I’ve ever run and I was clearly in the back of the pack.  Probably useful for me to know what that feels like to finish in 5:15:27. MInd you, two years ago at this race, I went 3:58 to BQ.   But with sketchy training this fall and a 3 week flu bug hiatus, I pretty much expected it to be in the five hour range.   I still smiled all the way down the final 100m...I never get tired of finishing marathons. But today was much more a day for reflection rather than celebration.

Epilogue:  Post Race Conversations

I crossed the finish line, hit the stop button on my watch and looked up and who should I see standing the but Deena Kastor, the Olympic Bronze Medalist who came in for the weekend.   I struck up a conversation with her and she was totally delightful! We talked a lot about running, promoting the sport and paying attention. I thanked her for all she’s done for running and a lot more...it was a 10 minute chat with some substance.   That was cool

Then, a little farther down the chute, I saw the Chairman of the Board of the race, the man who originally thought this thing up.   I first met him about four years ago and we’ve talked regularly since. I told him about my three-generational run and he got very excited about that.   He then pulled another Board member in for the conversation and we discussed elements of working with city authorities to pull off such a major event. So, even though my left quad was toast, it was nice my mind was working OK.   

So, there you have it.   I think this is the seventh time I’ve run this marathon...it’s very familiar turf.   I enjoy marathons so much because of days like this. The marathon is an exacting taskmaster...if gives nor offers any quarter.   You can’t fake it...you pay the price or you don’t and the result shows how many coins you put into the machine. I never tire of it.   



Monday, May 27, 2019

Hanson's Marathon Training--One Runner's Review

Marathon runners are forever wondering just how best to prepare to enjoy and succeed in the endurance contest which is 26 miles, 385 yards.   I've utilized several plans in my (now) 87 marathons/ultramarathons.   Hal Higdon's various plans have served well to get me up to that distance repeatedly.  I commend them.

I opted for a different direction, though, as I prepared for the 2019 Boston Marathon.   The decision settled for me during the 2018 Monumental Marathon, as I ran out of gas in the final miles of that familiar race.   I captured the concern at the end of that post:

With Boston looming in April, I'll do some rethinking on training going forward.  Lots of cold weather runs, of course, here in Indiana.   I'll find a system and see if I can come back.  

And this led me to consider the the Hanson's Training Method. 

I had heard many things about this approach and it simply seemed a step-up for me.  I bought the book and read it carefully.    It was challenging but it seemed a good way for me to progress in both effort and speed.   I knew I needed a clear plan in order to enjoy the challenge of Boston, so I went all in and started.

You can read the plan for yourself.   It's an 18-week plan in which Every Single Run has a purpose.   Pace, distance; rest, stress; tough days, easy days;  progressive weeks; short taper; focus on a single race.   It has three main sections:

  1. The first five weeks just get you going
  2. Weeks six through sixteen are just plain hard
  3. The final two weeks taper
 It was hard and I enjoyed it immensely.

With the program behind me, I'll try to summarize my thoughts.  What did I think of Hanson's Method?
  • It's tough.   It's just a lot of running.   Six days a week.   Only Wednesday off.   Three hard days, three easy days, one day off every week, once you get to week 6.  Multiple 45+ mile weeks, back to back.     
  • Midweek runs are hard.   There are a number of 8 to 10 mile runs on Thursdays.   I tried hard to do them all but a few I have just had to cut short, due to work requirements.   I did my best.   I worried about this early but realized I could only do what I could do, given work commitments. 
  • It demands attention to detail.   Every run has a purpose.   Every run is different.   Every run has a pace.   They fit together as a unit.  I learned this through reading the book carefully and it made sense.   I then made up a spreadsheet to help me keep track...see the photo below of my daily record-keeping plan  
  • It very carefully builds.   This is an amazing part...the miles kept piling up but it didn't feel unmanageable.  It's astounding to me, in retrospect, I could stay with it.   I didn't think it was possible. 
  • It avoids injury.   I've never run this many miles.   I'm 65.   And I had no substantive injuries, only a couple of niggles which resolved by the next day.    
  • I slept a lot.   All the miles tired me out.   Normally, by 9pm, I was bushed and usually in bed.  I had zero expectations of much social life during this plan.  That's a cost of doing this plan. 
  • I ate a lot.   I found myself often very hungry.   I did not do a good job of satisfying that hunger with healthy eating.   I too often filled up on grains rather than vegetables or fruit.  This surprised me and I must plan for it in future.  
  • I quit depending on my feelings.   Many, many times I went out for one of the three weekly hard runs and said to myself "There is no way I can hit the pace and distance today." And when I got out, I did it.   Time and time again.  I've talked with other people who have done Hansons and this is a common reaction.   In their book Luke is very forward saying the program teaches you to run hard on tired legs.   Yeah.   
  • The 16 mile long run worked.   The biggest criticism of Hansons is that their longest long run is "only" 16 miles.   Yet, I did this five times and every time it was on tired legs.  Would it translate to carrying speed through 26.2?  It did...see the results below.  While it seems illogical, all the other illogical things with this system have held up.   And this did too.
  • You can't do it all the time.   In their book, the Hansons emphatically say the MOST you should do this 18 week program is three times in two years...better only once per year.    Yeah.   I'd agree.   It's tough and would likely break you down without spacing. 
  • Don't do it for a spring marathon.   Boston only happens in the spring.  Doing this plan during January and February in the Midwest was just awful.   Getting in all these miles in lousy weather was very hard.  I had to use the treadmill on a few days and that's something I really don't like.   Next time I do this, I'll target a late fall marathon.   I'm keen to see how having the heavy miles in September and October will go. 
So how did this all work??   Let me capture some data for you.   

>>Here's a screen shot of my training log summary on March 24 in the heart of the training period.   You can see the high mileage each week.   In particular, this was the first time I've ever logged over 200 miles in any 30 day period. 

>>I ran a half marathon on Saturday, March 23, using it as Hansons tempo run.   I comfortably went 1:58.   And then did the required 16 miles at 9:53 the next day.   

>>I had one notably difficult training week, March 4 to 10.    Awful Indiana winter weather settled in, so I had to use the treadmill on Monday and Tuesday.   No speed work on Tuesday.   Took the regular Wednesday off.   But got up early Thursday for the required 9 mile tempo run.   And that was bad...I simply could not wake up and went back to bed, taking two straight days off and zero speed work for the week.    I was worn out physically and mentally.    Work was demanding that week.   Then took vacation day from work on Friday, March 8 and ran mid-day.   I then had to shorten  the scheduled 16 mile run on Saturday due to family requirements, doing 12, not 16.  I then modified the Sunday run to add 4 more hard miles to a 9 mile total run.   Was it perfect?  No.   But I still got in almost 40 miles. 

The crucial proof shows up in results, not process, though.   And I ran two races, the biggest being Boston but the best running being Wisconsin.

>>In the Boston Marathon (race report here), I succeeded in my goal to enjoy the event and absorb all that went on.   But my time was not what I wanted, going 4:40.   I discussed that in my blog post and have come to grips with it.   I will say, though, that the Hansons method clearly gave me the base to work through all the strangeness which is running the Boston Marathon and the final five miles at Boston was the best ever. 

>>Wanting to still take advantage of all this work, I ran the Wisconsin Marathon three weeks after Boston on May 4 (race report here).   In many respects, the experience was the opposite of Boston...a small race on a loop course, very flat, which I had run 4 previous times.  I made a serious attempt to get a sub-four hour time.   It went well through mile 19 but I couldn't hold it and finished in 4:08:49, four minutes shy of a BQ time.   I gave it all I could but the proximity to the Boston effort likely took off the shine.   Still, to do this so soon after Boston was very encouraging. 

So, the key question:  Does Hanson's Marathon method work? 

In my opinion, it does.   There are no magic guarantees in training.  But this plan links the desired results to the day-to-day process.  I'm a 65 year old guy who is not very fast.   And it got me out for more miles than I've ever done, injury free and got me through two hard marathon efforts in very decent shape.   

I'm looking forward to applying it again.   I'm going to apply it again targeting the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 2, 2019.   The 18 week plan will begin on July 9.   Having experienced the plan once, I'm psyched to go at it again.   

Persevere...no matter what plan you use. 


Here's a photo of one of the three paper schedules I utilized.   I taped this to the back of a closet door in our bedroom and used it to help me keep track of all the details.   If you are interested in the Excel spreadsheet I made for this, email me and I'll be happy to share. 

My paper log for first 8 weeks

Here's a photo of how I kept track of the running on a mirror in our bedroom.   Grateful my wife tolerates me. 


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Race Report: Wisconsin Marathon, 2019

 The Numbers:

4:08:49, a 9:30/mile pace
    155 of 339 overall
    107 of 204 men
    1 of 8 men 65-69

The Story:

My focus all winter in training was the Boston Marathon on April 15.   But I had the Wisconsin Marathon on May 4 in pencil all along, wanting to get in a second marathon if I could, given all the training I had done.   On the Tuesday before race day, I checked the weather for Kenosha and it looked to be perfect, so I signed up.

I’ve run this race 4 times before, so I knew the drill.  I drove up after work on Friday and picked up my packet pre-race.   The weather was indeed perfect...about 40F at the start, maybe 50F at the end, hardly any wind, sunny.   The course is flat and beautiful along Lake Michigan and through lovely neighborhoods of lake homes.

I decided to run the race on a perfect day with a hope to go sub 4 hours again, which is my race pace target (9:08/mile).   I went out fine and was holding myself back all along. I hit the half marathon mark in 1:57:52 and felt very good. My splits were very consistent.   How long could it hold, though??

The answer began to take shape soon.  By mile 16, I knew I was working harder to hold on.   I started taking one mile at a time. I hung on through mile 19, with a 9:22 pace but it was slipping, with miles 22 and 23 were 10:57 and 11:03 respectively, the slowest two miles of the day.  That was pretty much it, having used up any time I had “banked” earlier.

I re-calibrated my thinking, doing enough mental math to realize if I kept working, I could still beat 4:10.   So I did my best, with mile 25 in 9:41, mile 26 in 9:50 and the last bit to the finish line at a 9:03 pace. I slipped in just under 4:09.   

It took me a while to come to grips with missing my sub 4 hour target with weather and course in my favor.  But, on reflection, my training had targeted a race three weeks previous, I had run Boston, and a sub four-hour marathon is just a tough target for me.   I enjoyed the race, knew I had given my best and I needed to leave it as that.   Winning the AG with more than two others in the AG was a nice consolation prize.   

A nice day and that’s the way it was. 

Persevere...with or without cheese. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Race Report: Boston Marathon 2019

The Numbers: 26.2 miles, 4:40:10 (10:42/mile); 22,546 of 26,632 overall, 12,823 of 14,662 men, 333 of 488 Men 65-69. 

Quick Summary:  Running the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day, April 15, 2019, will be a lifetime memory for me.   The fame of the event, the aura surrounding it, the vibe of being in it, the utter difficulty of the course itself, the splendor of the finish, the welcoming across the entire city of Boston explains why this marathon is like no other.   I didn't run as well as I had hoped, yet the entire experience went beyond my expectations.

The Gory Details:

Getting there

I first pondered running Boston while on the plane to run the Portland Marathon in October 2009.   I wondered aloud, for the first time if I could ever qualify and run.   Six serious attempts at qualifying finally resulted in a BQ time at the Monumental Marathon in November, 2017.  Seventeen months later, it was a go.

In the week or two ahead of my departure, I was astounded at the outpouring of interest and support from friends, family, coworkers and fellow runners.   Even though this would become my 86th marathon finish, this race was clearly different. 

On the Friday before we flew out, my co-workers decorated my office door with 26 point 2 balloons (yes, a point 2 balloon...look at the little tiny blue thing below the yellow balloon in the foreground) and other Boston items plus a goodie bag.   I was so surprised and moved.

I have some experienced runners with whom I work!

We flew to Boston early Saturday morning, April 13.  The first order of business was to get to the expo and pick up my bib and go shopping for the obligatory Boston Marathon windbreaker.  Amazingly, lots of other runners had the same idea!   But we got to the convention center and it was a thrill to pick up my bib.

We then met up with our son David, his wife Susan and their oldest son Nathan who flew in just to be with us and see the race.   We tromped all over downtown Boston on the Freedom Trail on a glorious spring afternoon and soaked in the vibe which was pre-race Boston. 

On Sunday, I wanted to get off my feet and did so, kind of.   While our kids went to see the Boston Red Sox play, Gretchen and I found a wonderful church with whom to worship on Palm Sunday, then took public transport out to the famous peak of Heartbreak Hill near Boston College.  The trolley trip itself allowed me to preview the final five miles of the course.  Seeing the hills themselves was quite helpful.    We had dinner with our kids after they got back from the ball game and made final plans for how and where we'd meet up during the race.   I got home, checked the weather for race day for the 147th time, made final adjustments and went to bed.   Amazingly, I slept very well.

Race Day:

I awoke and grinned...today was finally the day of the Boston Marathon. 

Since the weather reports had been changing rapidly the previous five days yet still called for rain in the morning, I stuck my head out after waking and saw dry pavement and little wind.  Nice, I think and proceed to get ready.   By 6:50am, I was out the door to walk from our airbnb to the Davis T (subway) stop and got drenched on the way.  A major thunderstorm rolling through...water over my ankles in the streets soaking my shoes and socks.   In that 3/4 mile walk, I got drenched, my disposable poncho no match for the downpour.   My throw-away sweats soaked up the rain.   Not the start I had hoped for.   Yet, others had advised me to wear throwaway shoes and socks too...so, my good shoes and dry socks were safe in a bag.

I was ahead of schedule and the train got me downtown more quickly than I had allotted.   So, I modified my plan and found a bench on which to sit inside the Park Street T station for about 45 minutes collecting my wits and avoiding more water.

Apparently, I looked "safe" and ended up offering directions to lots of fellow runners on navigating Boston's public transport system while I sat there.   Never mind I had less than 48 hours experience on it myself at the time :-) .

The time came to get to the Arlington T stop, where I rigged a better "umbrella" out of an old space blanket I had stuffed in my hoodie and I ventured outside again.   The rain had lessened to a strong drizzle.   I found bag drop and headed for the huge logistics operation to transport 30,000 runners 30 miles west.

What a horde of school buses assembled to move all of us!!   As a logistics guy myself, it was fascinating and beyond me to explain briefly.   They have good practice though and it worked pretty well.

Image result for bus transport Boston marathon

My sheer chance, I ended up with a great seat mate for the 45 minute drive to Hopkinton who was running his 3rd Boston and lived in a condo on Boylston Street..."Yeah, I woke up at 8:30 and just walked to the bus".    We had a lot in common with three sons each and a lot of military connections.   He helped me understand details of geography and the course as well.    I appreciated his companionship.

Every race day has adjustments to make and my first one happened when our bus driver took a wrong turn in Hopkinton and dropped us off in the wrong place, near the start line not at Hopkinton High School's athletic complex.  So, all of us on the bus ended up wandering a bit through a quiet, pleasant New England residential district, trying to find a high school we'd never seen before.  We started hearing sounds, so followed that but, in the end, walked about a mile or so more than we would have needed.   It worked out OK as I had enough time to get through the long portapot line and then change into my dry shoes and socks once my Wave was called and we were out of the muddy outfield grass of the baseball field. 

We then did the walk BACK to the start line.    And, man, it was great.   Walking down there, thinking, hey, at long last, I'm actually starting the Boston Marathon.   Had to almost pinch myself.  Here's what it looked like, my only video of the day, with commentary.

The actual start was less organized than I expected.   Because of the uncertain weather, the BAA had told us that our Wave 4 would start immediately on the heels of Wave 3 and not in corrals...just to get us on the road more quickly.   And that's what happened.   We just walked up to the start line and started running, corals 1 through 9, all jumbled together.

And so, with little fanfare, we walked up the hill to the start line, crossed the timing mat and I was running the Boston Marathon at long last. 

And the hills started immediately, the first mile a steep downhill.  I focused on holding back and not getting carried away.   Early on, I stopped to take a photo of a house formerly owned by a friend's aunt, where our friend remembered visiting on marathon day, amazed as a girl by people throwing perfectly good t shirts into the bushes.

After years of marathoning, I have learned to relax at race's start and allow the day's rhythm to display itself during the first 4-6 miles.   How am I feeling?  What is the course like?  How is the temperature?  The wind?  My legs, my lungs?  Thirsty?  Hungry?   Calm? Uncertain?   I almost always have that worked out by  mile 5 and then execute the rhythm for another 20 miles or so. 

Not so this day.   And, ultimately, I would learn, only in the final 5 miles, not the first 5 miles, would I understand the day's running. 

The combination of the awe of the event and its logistics, the choppiness of my start experience, the newness of the course (to me) and variable weather combined into sensory overload.  There was just so much to absorb and process!  In particular, the weather was cloudy and cool at the start but by mile 5 was sunny and getting warm in a hurry, well into the 70s.   I peeled off my arm warmers, took off my cap, stuffed the grey Buff in my waistband and generally tried to get adjusted to running in warm weather after doing all my training in winter cold. 

I was very happy my family had made arrangements to see me the first time around mile 10.  What a thrill to see them waving their Purdue signs and cheering! 

The T shirts they wore were a special treat and a story for another day.   And, yes, we all like Purdue.

Immediately after taking this photo, I peeled off both shirts, handed the stinky black tech shirt, arm warmers and buff to my family and they chose to love me anyway.  I wriggled back into the white singlet with the Purdue logo which was perfect the rest of the way.   For fun, I took young Nathan with me and we ran about 200m of the course together...that was a hoot...I hope he remembers it.

What ultimately proved to be the hardest part of the run soon followed.  This is totally unexpected on most readings I've ever made about the Boston course.  I was surprised  by just how flat portions of the middle section of the course was.  I expected to simply slip into a rhythm and get through these "kind" miles ahead of the Newton Hills.   Yet, that rhythm was elusive and it seemed the harder I tried to find it, the more hidden it became.   I was knocking off the miles but it wasn't smooth. 

Our next family meet up was at mile 17,  just before the start of the infamous Newton Hills.   Wow, that was good to see all of them again.   We paused and chatted and I said goodbye to the kids, as they had to head for the airport from there.  We had a most enjoyable talk and a good goodbye.  I was so grateful for them making the effort to be with me for the event!

At the very base of the hills, a policeman was watching.   I caught his eye, smiled and said "So it begins!"   He got it, smiled back and seemed quite content to stand guard at the base and not run the next five uphill miles.   Yeah.

In contrast to my frustration and weak negotiation of the middle, flatter parts of the course, I was pleased with how I handled the Newton Hills.   I knew it was not one hill, but rather a series of four steep hills, separated by flat sections, as if one is going up four flights of stairs with a walk between each.  I had prepared during training, mentally and physically, and I found I actually enjoyed them.   I felt as if I knew where I was...I ran or power-walked the steepest portions and ran the rest...one, two, three, four hills...arriving at Boston College, mile 21, done with the most challenging part of the course   I felt fine and knew the rest of the course from our Green Line trolley tour the day before.

Related image

My quads felt great coming off Heartbreak Hill, so I hammered the downhills the rest of the way, letting gravity be my friend.   Looking around me at other back of the pack runners, it seemed I was in better shape than many at this point.   The weather, however, had also changed, again...it clouded up, we got a couple of cloudbursts of rain at 22, cooled off and the wind picked up but it was a tailwind for us runners.    I learned later that my family actually saw me at mile 22.5...they had some extra time and came course-side for one more look.  Unfortunately, I didn't know they'd be there and missed them, despite their yelling, such was the overall level of cheering.  That was so nice of them, though.

The crowds were great throughout the entire 26.2 miles but really went over the top during the final three miles.   I could scarcely hear myself think they were so loud.   Many, many shouts of "Go Purdue, Boiler up!" along the way when people saw my shirt and recognized the "P" as the Purdue logo (though one guy said "Go Providence" and another guy said "Go P", to which I replied the portapots were a mile back and I had taken care of that already....).

We came into Boston proper on Commonwealth Avenue and then into the green park portion of that long street.   Less than a mile to go, I felt alert mentally and was soaking in the atmosphere.   Finally, I saw ahead the most famous pair of turns in marathoning.

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.  It was everything I had hoped it would be. 

I made the turn onto Boylston and I was excited to be there.   600m to go.

I wasn't in tears but I was deeply moved.   I chose to jog, not race, down Boylston, looking at the crowds, taking it all in.   

In a wonderful, serendipitous moment, as I ran on the left side of Boylston, I noticed and paused for for several moments at the small memorial to the victims of the 2013 bombings...that was a somber but useful reminder that even though we were having a joyous time, life throws difficulties, sometimes deep difficulties, our way.   Remember that, Joe. 

And then I finished the race, crossing the finish line and done.  Wow.

I was grateful that the area just beyond the finish line was largely open by the time I arrived and no one seemed to mind I lingered a bit to soak it all in.   I was grateful to have a guy snap a this photo which I'll always keep.

Boom.   How amazing.   I got the medal which is a small thing yet a link to a big moment.

Gretchen missed the finish, as she was stuck on a train in gridlock traffic.   But I got hold of her and while she patiently worked her way to the finish area, I chatted up some volunteers, got my drop bag, put on a dry shirt and met her at the Very Crowded Corner of Arlington and Boylston.   How great to see her!!   We headed back to our airbnb, grabbed a couple of carry-out sandwiches at Davis Square along the way and spent the evening recounting our day and talking with relatives on the phone.   There it was...the Boston Marathon.   Done.

Adidas did a cool thing and produced a 58 second video in which every runner featured for a few snippets.   Here's mine:

Post-race Reflections:

In the few days following the race, a few solid reflections have floated to the surface.

Most importantly, I hit all my objectives in terms of enjoying the full event.   I never hit The Wall. I felt strong and fully engaged, mentally, the for the whole race and drank it in. 

I must say I was disappointed in my time of 4:40:10, though.   On reflection, I never found a "groove" until I got passed Heartbreak Hill at mile 21.  On the one hand, it's kind of cool to find a rhythm that late in a marathon.   Yet, I'm still perplexed I could not find it earlier and struggled in the flat, middle portions of the course.   But I'm fine with that, there was simply so much going on and the atmosphere was so stimulating, I'm not sweating it.  Did I really "run the best race conditions allow"??  No, not really.   I could have done better.   I'm smiling and mulling if there is another Boston in my future.   I don't know.   But I am mulling. 

I'll write in a few weeks about my observations on the Hanson's training plan which I used in this race.  I'm pleased and feel I understand it better now. 

My goodness, what an experience.   I've run the Chicago Marathon three times and the crowds there are good but nothing to compare with Boston.   It's the oldest, grandest and best of them all.   The organization of the event is astounding...the sheer number of volunteers is amazing.   Nothing to compare it to.   I've heard so much about this world-class event and now have experienced it myself.   It did not disappoint and I'm so happy to have been able to run it.   Those of you who have done it know exactly what I mean.

If you've read this far, I'm impressed...that makes you a marathoner yourself!  Thanks for your interest and support.   It means far more than you know.



Sunday, January 27, 2019

Boston Training 2019: Week 7 of 18, Jan 21 - 27, 2019

OK, we're into the middle "trimester" of Boston Training and the heavy lifting is getting started.   Similar pattern to last week in week 7.   Here's the plan, from the Hansons.

We started the week cold...so I moved Monday's 4 easy miles indoors on a treadmill at work.   7 below zero didn't seem like a fun idea.

Tuesday was the first really big mess up of the training cycle.   Due to weather, I put off the scheduled intervals to the evening.   And then I ate dinner.   Then I went out and man, what a joke.   The weather was still cold.   The legs were dead after a long day at work.   The stomach was too loaded.   I did a half mile or so and packed it in.   Bad idea.

So, instead of the off day on Wednesday, I got back on the treadmill for 5 miles.   Not great but I ran.

Thursday's tempo run happened after an overnight snow.   I was out early but managed to find a loop in a nearby neighborhood.   5 solid miles at an 8:56/mile pace, better than the 9:08 target.   Hansons say you are not supposed to beat the pace, rather learn the pace.  So, I'm still learning.

Friday's easy run was back on the treadmill for four.   I got outside on Saturday for 6.3 easy miles in very cold temps of about 12F.

My long run on Sunday was complicated by some family commitments but I got it in around sunset in 8F temps.   Layer up.  And it went well, ten solid miles at 9:33/mile, ahead of the 9:53 target pace. 

But, man, it was cold.   And from the looks of next week, it won't get any warmer. 



Sunday, January 20, 2019

Boston Training 2019: Week 6 of 18, Jan 14 - 20, 2019

Now, training really starts.

I've known all along Week 6 was the big step up in the Hanson's program.  This is when the specific structure of their program (three hard days, three easy days, each with specifics) kicks in.   The plan looked like this.

I've been wondering since I decided on this in November what intervals, temp work and the paced long run would feel like...not to mention running six days in a row.

And I found out.

Here's how the week went:

Monday's 4 mile easy was OK, even at 8F.   The streets were remarkably clear after the weekend's snow.  10:54/mile pace

How to do Tuesday's intervals on slushy streets?   On my drive home from work on Monday, I scouted a nearby neighborhood and found a loop I could use for the 400m repeats.   On Tuesday, I ran there with a one mile-ish warm up, then used my Garmin to measure the intervals.   And 12 I did.   They were supposed to be at 2:03. 

The last two on very icy streets.   I was pleased, even though it was a tough workout.  I sense I'm going to learn a lot with the progression of Tuesday intervals. 

Thursday's tempo run is a continuous run at my target marathon pace (9:08/mile).   After, again, a one-ish mile warm up, off I went.   This one was tough.   It just took some grit to keep going at a 9:08 pace.   I eventually got it done, with an aggregate average of 9:07/mile.   Again, this sequence of Tuesday/Thursday will prove challenging I'm guessing. 

Friday--- Nice to go to an easy 4 mile run at 10:37.  And it felt easy.

Saturday-- Another monster snow storm hit early Saturday morning with heavy snow and 30mph winds.   I chose to run the required 8 miles on a treadmill at work.   Wasn't easy...I don't like the treadmill at all.   But I got 8 miles in.   Ugh. 

Sunday held the first Hanson's approach to a long run.   In all my previous running schedules, the "long run" is simply that...go run long with little concern about pace.   Not in this program.   It's a focus on a harder pace but not marathon pace.   This is odd for me.   Temps were right around 10F and the streets were icy but I decided to go outside, rather than mess with the treadmill.   The run went OK but I could not keep the specified 9:53 pace.   The aggregate ended up being 10:24/mile.   I did run continuously, not using my usual 7/1 run/walk as I do on the "easy" runs.   So, I'll take it. 

So, off we go...this will be the pattern now until the second week of April.   What a way to spend an Indiana winter, eh??


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Boston Training 2019: Week 5 of 18, Jan 7 - 13, 2019

Week 5's reality illustrated two key potential disruptions of any training plan-- illness and weather.  

Week 5 is the final week in the program of "just running" was laid out like this.

Looked straightforward.   Ha.

On Monday evening, I noticed some drainage in my throat.   I ran early Tuesday but felt worse through the day.   Wednesday and Thursday, I hardly got out of bed, the cold and flu bug was so severe.   Friday, I went back to work and managed an afternoon run.    By the weekend I was close to normal again.

And, then a big snowstorm blew in overnight Friday!   23 consecutive hours of snow, dumping about 8" of heavy, wet snow on us, our first significant snow of the season.   I knew Boston Training would include some snow/cold running but have been lucky so far.   That's done.

So, the actual runs for the week looked like this:

Monday:  Off
Tuesday:  5.3 miles @ 10:47...the head cold was coming on
Wednesday:  scheduled rest day but I was sick anyway
Thursday:  curled up in bed...no training run
Friday:  Rare weekday afternoon run, 5.3 miles @ 10:37
Saturday:  Run on 3" of snow covered paths, 8.1 miles @ 11:19
Sunday:   Run on slick roads, 6.1 miles @ 11:11

I chose to add Thursday's scheduled 4 mile run to Saturday's scheduled 4 mile run and do a single 8 mile run, to get the miles for the week done.   Not sure what the Hansons would say about this but I did it. 

The slower-than-specified paces on Saturday and Sunday ( targeted at 11:00/mile) were due to the sloppy, snowy footing.   I'm not too concerned about this in the days after a snow storm but non-dry pavement will make intervals and tempo runs a lot more difficult next week.   We'll learn as we go here.

Did I mention it was snowing on Saturday??   Here's what the ice looked like on my face after the 8 miles.  

This was a typical view of Saturday's run...every bit as grey and snowy as this looked.

Next week, the serious training starts.   Intervals, tempo runs, long runs, six days of running.   Hang on.



Sunday, January 06, 2019

Boston Training 2019: Week 4 of 18, Dec 31 to Jan 6

Moving through the holidays, Week 4 of Hansons Training just dials up the training a little more with one more running day and a tad more distance.   Here's the actual program for distance and pace:

Week 4 Plan

Of course, the Hansons didn't now I violated their protocol already by running The HUFF 50K ( race report ) on December 29, which meant I was ostensibly on "recovery" all this week.   In fact, after a marathon, I normally don't run until Thursday of the following week.    But, hey, it was New Year's week.

So, here's what I actually did this week, with distance and pace:

Monday:  Off
Tuesday:  9:00am, New Year's Day run with our local running club...5.2 at 10:22
                 4:00pm, another NY Day run with local running store...4.2 at 9:52
Wednesday:   Off
Thursday:   Off
Friday:  3.1 early miles at 10:29
Saturday:  5.1 hilly miles  at Happy Hollow Park, at 11:19, then
                 2.7 miles at 11:23 with grandson in training
Sunday:   4.1 miles at 10:31, late in the afternoon

I should add...I'm trying to figure out how to fit in hill work for the prep for Boston.   Absolutely everything I read and every Boston runner I've ever talked to said the hills there will chew you up...the early downhills and the more famous late hills.   I live in the flatlands...how to do hills?   We have a local park with hills and I did 5 miles on Saturday morning there...it really chewed me up and spit me out.   I need to do further serious work there.

Week Five awaits, the final "easy" week in the program.   And no more major interruptions...it'll be straight up training through the end of March.