2018 Boston Marathon Recap

2018 Boston Marathon Recap

Before you skip over this thinking “Not another run-blogger telling us it was the worst conditions for the Boston Marathon in 30+ years blah blah blah”, I have more to the story than a weather report. It was my fourth consecutive Boston and the one I had the most fun running. The wind, rain, and cold just added to the challenge.

The two years prior, the weather was on the hotter end of the spectrum. Conditions that I do not do well in. I remember at quite a few points on the course this year when I thought to myself, “I was already struggling at this point in the race last year”. My momentum came to a crawl fairly last year and I could never regain it. The temperature was cool in 2015 with scattered showers that started about midway through my race. I ran my fastest Boston that year. I was also better trained for that one and several other factors lead to it being a successful race for me.

This year, though, I went in not quite as ready as I would have liked. I never really found a groove to lock in on a fast marathon time. Running 26.2 miles was not an issue at all, but running it at a fast pace was not in the cards for 2018. I had a lot of races mixed in prior that truncated some of my Boston prep. I had a career change, and the stress related to that, in the middle of my training cycle. So I never had that laser-focus it takes to get to the next level of training.

But I was OK with that. Life gets in the way sometimes and you have to make the best of what you have available on race morning. I had set goals of sub 3 hours, or if that was not happening, a Boston Qualifying time. For my age group, that time is 3:15. I had run “easy” at Shamrock a few weeks prior and finished in 3:17. I was confident I would hit at least one of those goals.

PRE-RACE BOSTON

Once again, our good friend Sharon opened her home to Jen and I on marathon weekend. Without her generosity, I doubt we would do the race every year. Her location makes it so easy for us to move about the city without any real stress. A large contingency of Shenandoah Valley runners embarked on Boston as well, making it feel like a big family vacation. Jen and I flew into Boston the Friday before the race and met Sharon at her apartment, then went to dinner with the McGraw family, Mario, his niece and her boyfriend. Mario and I had done the race before, so it was cool to see Becky taking in the whole experience of her first Boston. We had all trained together leading up to this, so there is a bond shared between all of us as we prepared to cross that start line on Monday.

Saturday was the Boston 5k. The weather was perfect. Cool temperatures, but not cold. Sunny, but not steamy. Running the race this year in our group was Jen, Sharon, Mario, Becky, and Becky’s son Dylan. Becky’s husband John and mother-in-law Marcelle as well as Mario’s niece were there to cheer us on. The race accommodates around 10,000 runners. Among those runners are some of the fastest in the world. Ben True. Molly Huddle. True elites. And as usual, I ran into fellow Running Dad Mike Wardian and got a chance to chat before the race. I always enjoy chatting with such an accomplished and down-to-earth runner.

 

Mario, Becky, Dylan and I lined up as far forward as we could squeeze. Jen and Sharon found a spot in a pace group they were comfortable with a little bit further back. The first few turns of the race are usually pretty congested with runners settling into their paces. I did not have a real time goal for the race, but Mario had said “I want to race.” Well then. Let’s do it. I didn’t want to push too hard though and jeopardize Monday’s race. I ran right next to Mario at a steady pace until we made that historic left turn on Boylston. Mario said “Go get it, Coach,” and I couldn’t help but surge ahead. I still felt comfortable, not running at top effort. I crossed the finish a few seconds in front of Mario, who was only a few seconds off his own personal best time. Dylan and Becky ran together, making memories on the streets of Boston. I got to share this experience with Connor last year and it is something special we will always cherish. Jen and Sharon had fun running together and hamming it up for the cameras, enjoying time together since they do not get to see each other much during the year. Jen even set a new personal best 5k time along the way! Everyone had a great time. And if you know our group, you will know our next stop.

Beer.

After breakfast, we all met up at Sam Adams Brewery to take a tour and sample some of their beers. I highly recommend taking the tour if you find yourself in Boston. We have done it twice now and it is fun and informative. And there is free beer involved. Win! We bounced around a few other destinations before returning to our temporary homes for the night.

Sunday’s agenda was a morning shakeout run along the Charles River, packet pickup and dinner. Jen, Mario, Becky and I met local running friends Shane and Renee to do our shakeout. As we ran, we passed another friend, Duane, doing his shakeout with a group. Sunday’s weather was a good bit cooler and a lot windier. A sign of things to come. Later, when we headed to the expo to retrieve our packets containing race bibs and goodies, it began to snow. As Sharon told us, if you don’t like the weather in Boston, wait 15 minutes, it will change. Not always for the better. That evening we all met up for dinner at Mother Anna’s, joined by more of Becky’s family that came to cheer her on. We all enjoyed chatting and strategizing how we would deal with the weather Monday morning.

 

RACE DAY

The plan was to meet Mario at the corner of Beacon and Charles at 5:55 AM. Busses board at 6:00 and I am habitually early for everything. Fortunately for me, Sharon’s home is close to that location, so I could get up, dress, eat something, and easily walk to the corner. My race gear included from top down:

For Lucas Headsweats hat
Goodr sunglasses (rain shields)
Jen’s fancy pink Buff
Rabbit Singlet customized with Running Dad and For Lucas Logos
Arm sleeves
Racedots
Gloves – 2 pair
SpiBelt with fuel – dates stuffed with peanut butter, Pickle Juice Shot, Sport Beans
Shorty shorts
Injinji socks
Altra Escalante Racers – Boston Edition

I covered all this up with some throw-away sweats and grabbed my clear bag with trash bags, snacks, heat shield, and essentials for athletes village. Off to the corner I went to wait for Mario. I waited. No Mario. 6:15 rolled around and I decided I am a horrible friend, but I am outta here. I boarded the bus and took off for Hopkinton.

Once in athletes village, I found a spot under the tent furthest away from the busses and set up camp to meet our crew since we had predetermined this to be the meeting point. It had been raining all night and morning. Top say it was muddy is an understatement. It was a mess. I put bags over my shoes and treaded through the muck and mud, laid down a trash bag, wrapped up in a heat shield blanket and waited. And waited. Finally Becky sloshed her way through the mud to join me. Then Tom, a friend from the Outer Banks who I have raced with before joined us. Still no Mario. I was feeling guilty for not waiting, imagining him standing on the corner waiting for me in the rain. What a horrible friend I am. Then I hear Becky say, “There’s Mario!”. I looked to my left and outside of our tent was Mario wrapped up in his heat shield, looking like a baked potato with legs. Turns out, he thought I said 6:55. Whew! I am not a horrible friend! I did not strand him on the corner. And he had less time to have to wait in the rain and cold. Win! I could tell he was cold though. Being Guatamalen, he is more attuned to heat than cold. There was an announcement for wave one to start heading to the start. Mario and I were in the same corral, so we headed out together, wishing Becky luck as she waited for wave two to be called. Here we go. Almost race time!

Mario and I settled into our corral with enough time to do some running around in circles to loosen up and try to stay warm. I planned to keep my sweats on until the last minute. Also in our corral was local runner, Courtney. She was shooting for sub 3 hour as well. We all chatted and made friends with the runners around us. The Elite Women and wheeled racers had already started and we got the announcement that the rest of the field would start in one minute. I shed my sweats and braced again the chill. It was cold, but I knew once I started moving, I would be fine.

And we were off! Mario and I planned to stick together since our goals were similar. It continued to rain and the wind buffeted us from the front, slowing us a bit and making us work a little harder. We settled into a comfortable pace and tick off the miles. At mile 11, Mario needed a bathroom stop. I expected him to jump off, take care of business and then come storming back up to catch me. I continued on, getting a big rush from passing through Wellsley and high-fiving every screaming college girl I could get a soggy gloved hand on. They were loud! I think the nasty elements just ramped up their enthusiasm and they shared that energy with the runners. I know my pace picked up after passing through the scream tunnel.

I continued a steady pace, nearing what I knew would be the make or break point in the race – Heartbreak Hill. It broke me last year. I had been reduced to a fast walk up those hills. This year, I was feeling much better and my pace dropped, but I was still running at a good pace. Midway up, I planned to take out some of my food to eat. Unfortunately, my hands being cold and covered up by 2 pair of soggy gloves made it next to impossible to get the fuel out of my belt. The only thing I could fish out was the pack of Sport beans. I had wanted another few peanut butter stuffed dates. They had given me a nice boost at the hour mark of the race. I managed to rip the top off the beans, but could not get the top to open. I kept an eye on the spectators, looking for someone who looked like they had enough finger dexterity to help me out. I found my target, made my way over and asked a young lady to assist. She tried her best but struggled as well. It seemed like forever. I figured Mario probably caught and passed me by this point. Finally her friend grabbed the pack and ripped it open. My hero! Back on track I downed a few beans and got the boost I needed. Up and over Heartbreak I went. Only 6 miles to go and I was feeling like a million bucks. Not super fast, but not on the pain train. Still on pace for a BQ. I locked in, put a smile on my face and surged through the puddles. Right on Herford, left on Boylston and down the home stretch. I spotted Jen in the crowd, waved and picked up my pace for the last bit of my fourth Boston finish. I crossed the line at 3:11:29. A BQ time!

I made my way through the finish chute, grabbing my medal, space blanket, and food. I had told Jen, Sharon and Mario that we would all meet at the George Washington statue in Boston Common. I got there first and was still feeling warm from my run. I had not felt cold during the race at all. I dug into my food bag, finding chips and energy bars to eat. Then my temperature started to drop. Brrrr. I stood there huddled alone until Jen and Sharon came around the corner. I asked about Mario and how Becky was doing since Jen had everyone on her tracking app. Mario had just finished and Becky was on track with a good pace. I could not stand there shivering any longer and once again, I abandoned Mario. His niece was going to meet him, though, and Sharon waited a while after Jen and I headed back to get me in the shower. So I am not a horrible friend even though I felt quite guilty leaving. Again.

After I was showered and feeling human again, I checked on my friends. Mario found his niece and Becky had finished and found her family. Our plan was to all get together for a celebratory beer, but the shuffle to get warm again made it impossible to meet up afterwards. Jen, Sharon and I went to a nearby pub, medal around my neck, and grabbed a beer and wings. Perfect. Another Boston in the books.

I am so glad I get these opportunities to share these experiences with my family and friends. The Boston Marathon truly is a treasure for the running community. Even if you do not run fast enough to qualify, or have no real desire to run a marathon, you owe it to yourself to take in the city during Boston Marathon weekend. You will leave with a renewed passion for running and proud to be part of the running movement.

Boston Marathon 2018 – Goals

Boston Marathon 2018 – Goals

Holy cow, it is less than two weeks until the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon. Yikes! My fourth time running the historic course. I like to set goals each year and sharing them here gives me a chance to look back and see if I hit them or missed them. In 2017, I set some pretty lofty goals. You can read them here. But here are the highlights/lowlights and how I fared.

GOAL A: Sub 2:55:00 – FAIL
GOAL B: Sub 3:00:00 – FAIL
GOAL C: BQ time (3:10-3:15) – SUCCESS 
MIRACLE GOAL: Sub 2:46:00 – FAIL

Actual time was 3:14:35 so I just squeaked by in Boston Qualifying time. Luckily I already had a better time under my belt to get me into the 2018 Boston Marathon because the 25 second cushion was not enough. It was hot last year at Boston. I was doing great until about midway through then all my energy got zapped. It turned into a long day.

Guess what my goals for 2018 are.

GOAL A: Sub 2:55:00
GOAL B: Sub 3:00:00
GOAL C: BQ time (3:10-3:15)
MIRACLE GOAL: Sub 2:46:00

Yes, I am persistent. But I think I can do it. Why am I more confident this year? I have a fast running buddy in my corral! Mario Zuniga and I have ran big races together and we push each other to new PR’s almost every time. Maybe Tom Thomas will jump back a corral and join us for a sub-3:00 push.

So there it is. My goal list for 2018. Hopefully I can recap with some green SUCCESS statuses beside each.

 

 

I hope you had a Goodr Easter!

I hope you had a Goodr Easter!

I received a really cool package on my doorstep the other day. As soon as I saw the shipping address, I thought “this is going to be AWESOME!” Inside the box were four Easter eggs. Each egg – or as they called them, “Flamingo Eggs” – had a pair of the new Easter Bunny Sunnies style sunglasses from Goodr in it. They sent these fun eggs to their brand ambassadors all over the country. Our job: hide the eggs on our favorite running trail. They also requested us to be creative and share photos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We just had to hide them Easter morning and hope runners would find them.

 

So I got up early, dressed in my Easter finest and hit the trail with my wife, Jen, in tow on her bike to capture the shenanigans. I deposited all 4 eggs and returned home in time to hide Connor and Cole’s eggs inside and outside of the house before they awoke. Pictures started to come in from all of the ambassadors participating in their egg hiding adventures and of the lucky runners that stumbled upon the eggs.

 

 

Local runners Becky and Katie were lucky enough to snag two of the eggs I hid. The other two eggs were not there when I went back out later in the day for a run, but I have not heard or seen who the fortunate runners were.

 

 

What a fun way to start Easter and share the awesomeness of Goodr running sunglasses and then have fun with my family!

 

The Yeti 100. What the hell were we thinking?

The Yeti 100. What the hell were we thinking?

I have been holding off on posting much about the big race I have coming up next week. I just finished running the Kauai Marathon on September 3rd. I didn’t want to overshadow that race with a race of mythical proportions; the Yeti 100 Miler.

I saw the Yeti 100 pop up on my newsfeed one day and thought, “A 100 miler. Sounds fun! And crazy.” I shared the race shortly after and got a response of “If you do it, I will, too” from my buddy Josh. Would I really do it? Let’s check out the registration. Closed. Darn. Maybe next year. Sorry, Josh.

Whew.

I was a bit relieved. I mean, seriously, 100 miles. Crazy. 50 miles hurt bad enough.

Well, maybe I am a little crazy. Let’s email the race director and see if I can get Josh and I at least on the waiting list. I didn’t want to let Josh down, right? Although he did admit he, too, was relieved when he found out it was closed. What harm would it do to get on the waiting list?

A week later, an email arrived with a link to register. Jason, the race director, had pushed us through and we could run the race.

Hooray!

Oh, #%!&! 

We are in … yikes.

So here we are with the Yeti looming in the bushes, waiting for us on September 29th in Abingdon, Virginia.

Like most ultra marathons of the 100 mile variety, a belt buckle is the coveted prize. The Yeti buckle is adorned with a hairy sasquatch, majestic unicorn, a rainbow, pot of gold and a train. It can’t get much cooler than that.

From Yeti Trail Runners Facebook page. Note the different buckles …

Unless …

… you “call your shot”. If you publicly announce that you will run the 100 miles in less than 24 hours, you get a special hand-painted buckle. If you finish in 24:00:01 or slower, you go home empty handed. No special buckle. No regular buckle. No participant ribbon. Nothing.

Of course, two minutes after the announcement of the “Call your shot” challenge, Josh and I were messaging back and forth, “If you do it, I will”. Sounds a lot like conversations I had as a kid that ended up getting me grounded for a month.

We accepted the challenge.

Then this past week, I doubled-down on the “shot called”.

Training has gone well. Our plans of doing 50+ mile training runs, 24 hour practice runs, sleep deprivation practice and night runs never came to fruition. We did manage to squeeze in a 30+ mile training run. We didn’t die or kill each other, so that counts as a success. And I have broken my record for most miles in a month these past two. So we are at least kind of prepared.

I think.

I hope.

We have a great support team coming along to cheer us on and help pace us for the long out-and-back-and-back-out-again course. The race runs along the Virginia Creeper Trail, named after a train that used to meander through Abingdon, Damascus and White Top. There are over 100 trestle bridge crossings along the way. The surface is a mixed gravel and packed cinders substrate. Not technical like portions of the JFK 50 that I have run the past couple years. Hopefully this will be conducive to a sub-24 hour effort on our parts.

100 miles.

Yikes.

But that buckle …

RIT
goodr Sunglasses
SKORA Ambassador
Eternal Endurance
INKnBURN
Shenandoah Valley Runners
Roots & Rocks Adventures
RUNaissance Mom

Race Recap – Kauai Marathon 2017

Race Recap – Kauai Marathon 2017

Quick Kauai marathon recap: Jen and I arrived in Kauai Friday evening at 7:30 Hawaii time, 1:30 home time. We set our alarm for early the next morning to do a group shakeout run with Bart Yasso. The run was at the Hyatt which is where the expo was located as well. There was also a Keikie Run (kids run) at the Hyatt that I knew Michael Wardian’s, my running idol, boys would be running. Unbeknownst to me, Jen had emailed Mike and arranged for us all to get together after the kids run for a bite to eat. After the fun run with Bart, we watched the kids run and met up with the Wardian family. 

We all went to the expo to get our race packets and then headed to Living Market for brunch. We sat and talked race strategies. Mike had run Kauai 3 times prior to this year, placing 1st, 2nd and 3rd. His goal was 2:20-2:30. Mine was 2:50-3:10. It was surreal sitting and talking about running with one of the top runners in the world. His wife and kids were really cool, too, and we all enjoyed just relaxing and chatting. This was definitely an experience I won’t forget.

Fast forward to race day. Jen and I walked to the start from our hotel. The stars were out (5AM) and the roosters were starting to crow. I somehow ended up at the front of the line heading to the start lead by traditionally dressed Hawaiians. I lined up near the front, and ended up bumping into another local runner, Karsten Brown. Yasso walked by and I got a high five. Mike Wardian lined up in front of me and we wished each other luck before the gun went off. 

I hit my goal paces for the beginning miles of the race. There is a point in the race where marathoners go right, half marathoners go left. At the first aid station after the split, I asked how many runners were in front of me. Just one, they informed me. What? Second behind Wardian? Wow! I continued running a decent pace, slowed by hills but on track on the flats and downhills. After a big climb from miles 14 to 18, the hills gave way to a stunning vista overlooking the ocean. I hit mile 20 with the prospect of a podium finish a strong possibility. Then things got a little fuzzy. The shaded roads gave way to more sun exposed running. Temps were in the mid 80s and I was feeling it. It seemed like every downhill had a tough uphill. My steady pace turned into a walk. I was soon passed by a speedy girl and then another guy. Maybe I could hang on for a male podium finish. Nope. The wheels completely fell off and I hoped to make it to the finish without passing out on a roadside ditch. 

I finally crossed the line at 3:32 in 6th place. Not my best. Not my worst. After a few beers and a ton of potato chips, I returned to the land of the living and enjoyed a nice post race party. I earned 3rd in my age group. Wardian took first overall at 2:45.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first 20 miles of the race and the pre and post race activities. I’d like to forget those miles at the end, but overall, a great destination race. I’d highly recommend this race. Nicely organized and the scenery was breathtaking. 

Now it is time to recover with my butt in the sand and a drink in my hand.

Workout Wednesday – What Goes Up …

Workout Wednesday – What Goes Up …

I know how much you love hills! Pushing yourself up the hill to build that strength and endurance that only a hill workout can give you is FUN! In reality, you are sweating profusely and cursing Coach Jeremy. Trust me, I feel your pain.

But have you ever done the work in reverse? No, not running backward, although I may try that for next week’s Workout Wednesday. I’m talking about running down the hill instead of up. Downhill workouts usually get overlooked because it seems too easy. Just cruise down the hill, right? Wrong.

If you have ever run the Baltimore Marathon or the Boston Marathon, you know that the first half of each starts downhill. You fly down those hills with reckless abandon thinking how easy the second half will be. Then “BAM!” you start to feel your quads burning as you get to mile 16. By mile 20, you are toast. Calves cramping, hamstrings tingling. Why? You probably did not work on your downhill running to help your quads and calves adapt to the stress of running a decline.

Your body’s natural reaction to running down a hill is to lean back toward the hill and use your heels as a brake. Your stride also elongates because gravity is helping you cover more distance in each stride. This change in your stride creates a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. To avoid this, try to tighten up your stride and take quicker, choppier steps down the hill. Lean forward from the hips and keep your body’s center of mass over your feet as best as possible, not behind. Remain in 100% control of your body and your running form. Don’t let the pull of gravity helping you down the hill cause you to get sloppy form. Control the chaos and focus on your form to minimize the chance of injury.

Hills, whether uphill or downhill, are sometimes where races are made or broken.

A downhill workout you can try to learn how to fall in control:

  • 1-2 mile warm up to the top of a decent hill. Not a crazy drop in elevation, but a gradual, steady decline.
  • Run hard, but under control, down the hill for 30 seconds. Walk or jog back to the top. Take advantage of this recovery time.
  • Repeat this 6-10 times. If you work this into your normal routine, add a rep each time you do it.
  • Finish with a 1-2 mile cool down.

Just think of that burning sensation in your quads the first time you do this workout as a hug from the hill. You two have become such good friends recently! Admit it. You love hills!