Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

So, how'd we do this year? Let's review.

Recap of Goals for 2010

- Strive to run at least one road race per month.
- Complete at least 1 half-marathon.
- Complete a full marathon.

Nice and simple. Let's see how the expected compares to the actual.

JanuaryFreezer Five
February1st Half Marathon (Hampton NH) in 1:55
MarchStu's 30k - I will go tackle this beast again!
AprilDunleavy 5k - 5k PR of 24:21 set
MayRun To Home Base - raised over $1,500 for vets, race finished in the Fenway outfield!
JuneVermont Covered Bridges 1/2 - PR of 1:51 set
JulyHarvard Pilgrim 10k - Ended on the 50 yard line of Gillette Stadium
AugustDare Classic 5k - 1st 5k in VFFs
SeptemberLex's Run - awesome race, great people, tough course
OctoberSmuttynose Half - pace ran Fishadad to his first 1/2
Bay State Full - ridiculous PR in 2nd marathon
Groton Town Forest Trail Race - first trail race, tons of fun, great race
NovemberSlattery's Turkey Trot - 5m PR
Holden Turkey Trot - course time beat by 30s
DecemberHot Chocolate 5k - 5k PR of 23:49 set

OK - Goals met, and then some. It's been a whirlwind, this my first real full year of running.

* 1478+ miles logged running
* PRs (26.2) - 4:24:39, (13.1) - 1:51:04, (10k) - 52:48, (5m) - 40:56, (5k) - 23:49
* got a pair of VFFs. love em. logged about 80 miles on them this summer
* found that i love to run on trails. gonna do a lot more of that next year.
* fixed up my old bike mid-summer and got in a couple hundred miles of cross training
* maintained my weight within the same 10-lb range, all while enjoying many fine Belgian beers
* met some truly amazing people and an awesome online community i'm happy to be part of
"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." 
— Dr. Seuss

It's been great. I'm gonna take a few moments to think about goals for next year. Maybe I'll sleep on it. Then, get up tomorrow, like today, and put the gear on and get out the door. To borrow a phrase from an esteemed podcaster to whom I owe a phone call - "maybe I'll see you out there".

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

50 Days

"To be great, one does not have to be mad, but definitely it helps." – Percy Cerutty

This morning was no different than any other this winter. I put on my cold weather running gear and hit the road. Today's forecast: high teens with a "feels like" temperature of 1F. Wind gusts between 20-30 mph. Snow on the ground. The only distinction that can be made about this day is that is the 50th consecutive day that I have gone for a run.

Why? I don't know How did it start? An accident. I joined a challenge on Daily Mile when there were 15 days until Thanksgiving. The challenge was to run 15 miles in the 15 days, but I misread it as "run at least a mile each of the 15 days". I realized my mistake after 6-7 days but figured "what the heck" and decided to go for the 15. On day 13, I ran a PR for 5 miles. On day 17 I beat my Holden Turkey Trot course time by 30 seconds. On day 27 I broke my 5k PR. On day 31 I celebrated my 34th birthday, in the best physical shape of my life.

The Numbers

I wore the Garmin for every run during this stretch, so here are the numbers as recorded by the 310XT.



Distance233.53mi
Time38:53:35
Elevation Gain11,557 ft
Avg Speed6.0mph
Avg HR150
Calories29,448
Max Avg HR175


I've burned almost 8 1/2 pounds, and climbed the equivalent of nearly two trips up Mt. Washington.

Over the last 50 days, I've noticed some improvements. My zone 2 runs are getting a bit faster, and my speed is starting to pick up on tempo runs and intervals. I've been able to bust out a sub-8 pace on the tail end of most of progression runs I've gone on.

Habit

It has been said that after 21-30 days of doing something, it's a habit. After 50, it's automatic. I roll out of bed and drift to the running gear, almost without a conscious thought. Some mornings I'm not even awake until the frigid winter air hits my face. I used to day dream about being able to get up and go for 3 miles every morning. Seems like that dream has become a reality.

I don't really have a goal in mind. I can't say when I'll stop running each day. But I do know that every time I get out there, I'm glad that I did.

Whatever you can do,
Or think you can, begin it.
Boldness has power, and genius,
And magic in it.
- Goethe

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A quick note to a 24 year old me.

Hey there,

Just checking in. You probably started running with Dave from the boxing gym recently. Bet you never thought you'd be doing that two years ago, when you were weighing in at 350 huh? Well I've got a few more unbelievable things to tell you about the next ten years.

In a couple of months, you are going to sign up to run a marathon in Kona, Hawaii. You'll be raising money for the American Stroke Association, and by the time the fund-raising is over, you'll have surpassed the $5,000 mark. You'll be training with a group of people each weekend, and you'll finish the marathon in just about 6 hours.

When you get back, you'll get lazy. You'll join a Karate dojo but slow down on the exercise and running. You'll gain some weight, you'll lose some weight. Your job will get a bit more stressful. You'll end up having two children and getting a house with the love of your life. You'll gain more weight.

One day, in about 8 years, you'll wake up and sadly realize that you've gained half of the lost weight back. It'll be depressing. You will start back down the road leading to health. You'll stumble, you'll hit plateaus, and eventually... you'll break through those barriers.

How? Running. In 9 years, you'll pick it back up again. This time, you won't be able to stop. You'll run through wind and rain, through snow and under the full moon in single-digit temperatures. The pavement and trails, the hills and races - you'll fall in love. You'll develop a habit. No, an addiction. You'll crave the high you get from lacing up and letting go.

And you won't be able to stop.

It'll be a long road, filled with ups and downs, but it'll be worth it. You'll lose the weight, and gain so much more. You'll run a race every month in 2010, and finish your second marathon - smashing your previous time by over an hour and a half! You'll gain friends and a new family - both online and in your neighborhood. You will find in running what you've been looking for all along - a way to live in the moment. To let go of all the mundane stress of life and focus on the path ahead, one step at a time.

So tomorrow, get up and get out there. I assure you, you won't regret it.

One day, a long time from now, you'll realize you've been running for the last 44 days and don't plan on stopping any time soon.

Run, run, run.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Turkey Trots and Hot Chocolate

I'm taking some time off after Christmas this year for the first time in many years. In between playing with the kids and doing things around the house, I'm looking forward to taking some time to reflect upon the years running. It's been an amazing time, and I've really finished out the year on a real high.

I've had a fantastic string of races over the last few weeks.

Slattery's Turkey Trot
The weekend before Thanksgiving, for the last 30 years, there has been a road race in Fitchburg, starting at Slattery's restaurant. This "old-school" course is a criss-cross out and back, finishing with a nice down-hill stretch before a 70+ ft climb to the finish line. Throughout the years, over $150,000 has been raised for local scholar-athletes, and the event has attracted some big names and elite competitors. For a wonderful review of the event, see Chris Russell's write-up over on Cool Running.

This year was no different. Great family event - bounce house, heated tents, beer & food afterwards. Good times. I set out to pace run Fishadad to his 5 mile PR. I was wearing VFFs and (at the time) was on day 13 of a running streak, so I didn't really envision breaking any PR for myself. My previous time at Slattery's was 43:34. I figured I'd be running with Bill and coming in around 45-48 minutes.

Boy was I wrong. Out of the gate, Bill was off! He actually lost me for a bit in the first mile. I stayed back, keeping him in sight, content to just kind of run along until our paces synced up. We ran somewhat close for another 2-3 miles, at which point I realized that he had some minutes in the bank for his PR, and I decided to pull ahead (splits: 8:50, 8:20, 08:31, 07:53, 07:35). As I climbed the final hill, I realized that if I had not been so conservative in the first few miles, I could have easily shattered my next goal of sub-40:00 in the 5 miler. But, I didn't, and I ended up coming in at 40:56 - still a decent PR!

Bill ended up shattering his PR as well, so it was a good day all around.

Holden Turkey Trot
On Thanksgiving morning, I went up to the center of town alone to run in this 5k (it was a bit too frigid for the kids). This event, run each of the last 7 years, raises money for the Wachusett Food Pantry. It's an out-and-back on main street in Holden. If you are not familiar with the area, the "out" portion is mostly down-hill. I really didn't expect much from this run. My splits were not great, as I felt the effects of the climb on the way back (07:33, 07:53, 08:22). But, I did manage to beat my course record by 20 seconds or so. Had a blast running with a huge turnout for our small town. The only negative was the 20 minute delay of the race, which effectively cooled me down after a brief pre-race warm up jog.

Hot Chocolate Run
On December 5th, we made the trip out to Northampton for the Hot Chocolate 5k. This is a fantastic event that drew 5,000 participants, and raised over $135,000 for the Safe Passage organization. It also drew its fair share of Dailymilers. We met up with Fishadad, MrsKnitpho, WickedPhysics, GetInTheKarma (and wife); and - after I posted the run, there were a bunch of other people that commented that they too had made the run to get the hot chocolate. This race rewards its brave participants with a nice steaming mug of hot chocolate instead of the typical t-shirt. A nice change.

This was day 27 in my current running streak, and I didn't really expect much of anything other than a nice run with some friends. In the back of my mind, I worked out the math and had a decent idea of what I needed to do in order to PR, but having run the course last year, I didn't think it would happen. There is a series of hills in the 3rd mile that just killed me last year.

I took my place in the 7:40 pace area and waited. The race went off on schedule and we began the initial climb (there are hills right at the start). After the first mile or two I was feeling pretty good (07:45, 07:30) so I just kept pushing. The hills came, and for a moment I was right around a 08:15ish pace. But what goes uphill, must come down (at least on this course). The last half-mile is flat/downhill the whole way. I was able to make that up and then some, finishing the third mile in 07:43 and the last 0.13 (according to Garmin) at 06:04!

The picture to the left is me going down the final stretch, checking my watch, realizing that I was going to PR, and giving the thumbs up!

After the race, I got a hot chocolate, which I shared with the kids, as I don't do marshmallows. If someone has found a vegan marshmallow recipe, please share!

While we were trying to stay warm, we spotted fellow NERTS MrsKnitpho and WickedPhysics and got together and talked about the race and hung out for a few minutes.



All things considered, it's been a fantastic few weeks. Can't wait to see what will happen next.

Oh yeah, today was day 28 of the running streak. ;)

This Running Life

Last week, I had a chat with Gordon of the This Running Life podcast. We had done an interview about a week after I completed Bay State that was lost, so we re-recorded it for episode 6 of his podcast.

If you want to listen to us ramble on about running, weight loss, eating vegan, etc. - you should be able to listen below.




If you're not aware of Gordon's story, you should definitely check out his podcast. He has undergone an amazing transformation from an overweight meat-eater to a lean, mean, vegan running machine!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Month Later

So it's been one month since I ran my "second first marathon" at Bay State. In the weeks following, I've had some time to reflect upon the race (and my training), discover that I really love trails, and think about my upcoming goals.


Data Junkie

I'll admit it. Since getting a Garmin this summer, I've been addicted to the data. I sync that sucker as soon as I get home; often looking with an eye toward future improvement. Split times, heart rate, elevation profiles, caloric burn - sweeeeeet data.

I couldn't help but go over the numbers. I'll spare you the long, detailed analysis. In short - I've concluded that I over trained. I feel like I went out and ran at a pace much too close to my intended race pace for the majority of my training runs, even my long runs. Macmillan and Daniels calculators both put me at about 45-60 seconds slower than what I ran at. Never was this more evident than the marathon itself, where my HR was way too high, and I had to slow down to finish.

Slowing Down
I ran the day after. Ill-advised? Maybe. But I really needed to loosen things up so that I could stretch out. I ran incredibly slow. It hurt a little bit. I stretched. It hurt less. I took a day or two off. I ran again. I took a day or two off. I ran slow - partly due to recovery, partly because I want to start training in lower HR zones to work on efficiency. I've been going out for painfully slow zone 2 runs.

Slowly, but surely, I am seeing some gains. At first, these low zone runs were well up above 10:30 pace. But during some recent runs, I've felt like my perceived level of effort is less, and sure enough, upon consulting the all knowing oracle on my wrist, I was running sub-10, sometimes closer to marathon pace, in the high zone 2/low zone 3 ranges. Not consistently, but more frequently than during my training. Pretty happy about the signs of progress. Very happy that I've been able to get out and run so shortly after the marathon. Even happier still that I've been out on a bunch of new routes so closer to my house - in the woods.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep...
One week after the marathon, I ran the Groton Town Forest Trail Race and had a blast. Since then, I've gone out into the conservation land near my house and discovered at least a dozen new routes to run on. I have to say, I am becoming a trail running addict! I love the change in scenery, the in-the-moment nature of a run over rocks and roots, the joy of uncovering a path along the river. Poor timing I suppose, as I it'll be icy and wet soon, and I may need to give up the trails once the snowfall starts to accumulate. But, I have had some fantastic runs during the daylight hours, out in the woods.

In the Dark

With the shorter days, I've been getting out on the roads in the early morning and evening for short 3-6 mile runs. Armed with my inexpensive headlamp and reflective vest, I've been having a blast out there in the darkness. While friends and family complain about daylight and the upcoming winter, I think about the opportunity to get out and run, regardless of light, temperature, precipitation or wind.

So what's Next?
I've got Slattery's Turkey Trot on Sunday. Going to run a nice five miler with Fishadad, most likely in the VFFs. After that, I'm running the Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton in December. I may also do the turkey trot in my town on Thanksgiving day, and I will most likely do the Freezer Five again on New Year's Day.

After that - who knows? I've got some vague ideas. On the list as potential goals/races for next year so far -

  • Hampton Half in February
  • Stu's 30k in March
  • Boston! - I might pace run with my friend Rebecca, as she goes for a sub-5 finish
  • USATF Mountain Series - more info - maybe training for...
  • Vermont 50! - I'm going to be a part of this race in September in some way, shape or form. I'm not sure if that means I'll be crewing, or running the 50k, or going all in and running the 50 miler. In any event, I'm sure to be spending a lot more time on the trails next year.
  • Smuttynose Full - depends on how VT50 plays out, but this is a possibility

Avoiding the Blues
When I completed Kona nine years ago, I took some time off afterwards. Everyone advised me to take some time to rest and let my body recover. For me, this also had the unfortunate side effect of introducing some post-marathon blues. I felt like there was nothing else to achieve, no goals to tackle. This led to a lull in exercise. However, I didn't stop eating like I was training. Thinking back on it now, it was probably the beginning of the weight gain. Today, this sounds completely silly. There are always new things to discover, new goals to set, new ways to keep pushing forward.

So anyways - it's been a month since I finished the marathon, and in that month I've run over 100 miles and found a bunch of new reasons to stay excited about running. I'm having a blast getting out there, and in fact, I'm in the midst of a 10-day running streak right now. I'm very grateful that I have the opportunity to be here now, to be blessed with so many awesome trails to run on so close to home, and to be healthy enough to get out there and enjoy them.

Until next time, run well my friends.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Groton Town Forest Trail Race

In the weeks leading up to Bay State, I heard that some of the NERTs (New England Running Twits - search #NERTs on Twitter) were going to run in the Groton Town Forest Trail Race on October 24th. Just a week after Bay State, initially I was undecided. But as time passed, I made up my mind. If my legs felt OK, I was going to run. The only question was whether or not I'd tackle the 3.5mi or 9.5mi course.

My left knee felt a little questionable during a recovery run on Thursday night, but by Saturday morning it was feeling much better. A short bike ride through the woods, and I was all excited to run the trails Sunday morning. Still, I wasn't sure which distance I'd sign up for.

Sunday morning, I got a late start out the door, and arrived just in time to register. I saw Doug (@ReallyNotARunnr) on the way in and decided then that I felt good enough to give 9.5mi a shot. Registered quickly, and picked up a hat and gloves for $6. It was chillier than I thought it would be. Made my way back to the start/finish area and met up with Doug and the rest of the NERTs running. After a few minute delay, we were off.

Chris Russell (@cyktrussell) of RunRunLive fame was our pace runner at the onset. Chris was running "slow" that day. The pace was comfortable at first, and I hung with our group for about 2 miles or so. Eventually I dropped back and I lost Chris, Sandy, and Doug around the bends and over the hills in the deep forest. First 2 miles, according to Garmin - 09:17, 10:41


Garmin provided some elevation data. Not sure of the accuracy in the deep woods, though...


Over the next couple of miles, I went fairly slow (10:27, 10:58). Around mile 5, the pace started to pick up as the trail descended deep into a glacial kettle. I was surprised to see the splits from the Garmin later, as mile 6 was a pretty significant climb, and I still managed a sub-10:00 pace. Down and up - 09:17, 09:45. Mile 7 was largely uphill, and my pace slowed accordingly - 11:49.

At times, the pack of runners would thin, and I'd find myself alone on the trail. It's amazing how much of a zen-like quality trail running has. You're constantly engaged. In the moment. Watch out for that root, avoid that rock. Save some energy for that climb. Grab that tree. Don't hurt yourself. On the road, I find you can lose yourself in your head. On the trail, you lose yourself, to the trail.

Sometime around mile 8 or 8.5 - I saw Doug scaling one of the hills ahead of me on the trail. I called out to him, and he waited up for me. We ran the next 1-1.5 miles together (again, the Garmin was probably wrong on distance) and chatted about the trail, and tried to avoid injury. Doug had rolled his ankles on the course earlier, and had lost Sandy and Chris. Things were going great until about 1/2-3/4 mile to go, when I rolled my ankle. Wasn't too bad though, and after a few hops on it I was good to go.

We saw the finish and I asked him if he wanted to run it out. He said he wasn't sure what he had left in him but he'd give it a go. We took off down the final stretch, blowing past one older gentlemen and bearing down on a small dog on the trail. He surged. I surged. It was pretty exhilarating to have the energy left to open up like that at the end of a challenging course. Eventually, Doug edged me out for a one second victory in our first ever trail race.


Doug & I on the far right, sprinting to the finish! (thanks to Kim A for photo)

After the race, I made my way over to the registration area and picked up my t-shirt. The NERTs hung out and had some post-race beer and food. Great time with some great running friends -


L-R: Me, John (@thinmedic), Doug (@reallynotarunnr), Sandy (@trifatlete), Melody (@mrsknitpho), Heather (@wickedphysics) - Photo courtesy of @cyktrussell.


Thanks to everyone involved with this race. It was a blast. Thanks to Chris for putting the word out about this run. Definitely going on my check list of "to do" races for next year.

Until next time - run well my friends.

Monday, October 25, 2010

National Married to a Runner Appreciation Day

Did you know that today is National Married to a Runner Appreciation Day? No? It's OK, neither did I. But in honor of such an important day in the lives of all runners, I'd like to say a quick thank you to my "wife" (those of you in the know get the quotes) Jenni.

So here is an off the cuff list of things I'm grateful for, in no particular order, as it pertains to my running obsession (ahem, hobby).

Thanks Jenni -

  • Even though you think I'm crazy, you support and encourage me to be healthy and happy
  • You very rarely complain that my long runs on the weekend cut into our time as a family
  • You are an expert smoothie maker
  • My running clothes are always clean
  • You haven't killed me yet for leaving my shoes everywhere
  • You've chased me around on long runs to give me much needed water & nutrition
  • You've come out to almost all of my races to support me
  • You don't get annoyed by questions that I ask a ridiculous amount of times - "What's the temp supposed to be like tomorrow? Have you seen my (insert running gear item here)?
  • You always have coffee brewed. I know it's not for me, but I enjoy that
  • You put up with me during taper madness
  • You don't mind picking up 20 lb bags of ice for my bath
  • You let me rest
  • You encourage me to cross train, and to continue to find new ways to improve my health & fitness
  • You tell me that I make you proud

If you're a runner, take a moment to thank those around in your life that support you in your endeavors. Hell, I'm even offering a shoulder massage, that is, if the wife reads this blog. ;)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bay State Marathon

Nine years ago...

I did something that not many people do. Statistics vary, of course, and you may find different percentages, but the most often cited data point I've seen is 99.9%. 99.9% of the population will not complete a marathon in their lifetime. Of the 0.1% of the population that have completed marathons, far fewer have done so after losing 100+ lbs. During a hot day, on a course surrounded by volcanic rock, with a finish along the Kona coast, I completed a painful race after hitting the wall *hard* at mile 20 and having to walk/shuffle my way to a 6:02 finish.

I was exhausted, humbled, proud. After the race, I took time off. I slipped. Back into a funk. Stopped running. Gained some weight. Time passed, I gained more weight. Job got stressful. I gained more weight. You see the pattern. You may even know the story.

One day, I woke up. The feeling of crossing that finish line nothing but a distant memory and a few photos in a shadow box on a shelf.

Earlier this year, I decided to do it again. I vowed to go back to Kona in 2011 and shatter my previous time. I began training for Bay State 2010, as a stepping stone to bigger things. People would ask me "Is this your first marathon?", and I'd say "sort of", and explain. And they'd respond - "You DID IT! You can't just forget that!"

But I had. Oh I remembered bits and pieces of it. I suppose there are some things you can't forget. But I felt like it was another life, another person. Certainly not the guy that goes out now on the weekends to run 10+ for fun. Back then, it was survival. Could I get through the training? I don't ever remember looking forward to a 17 mile long-run the way that I did/do now.

So last weekend, I set out to finish what I started. Here's the recap -

Saturday

Went on a little shakeout run in the morning, and felt fantastic. Didn't do too much except pack for our trip. We stayed at a hotel about 4 miles from the starting line. I didn't really feel like visiting the Expo, as I really wanted to just rest the legs. We ended up going to a friend's house nearby for a great pasta dinner. It was a very relaxing way to spend the night before.

Race Day

Up at 6. Ate a bagel & peanut butter. You know the drill - shoes, socks, sleeves, shirt, shorts, hat, bib, GU, tabs, band-aids, glide, water. Go time.

The wife and kids dropped me off at the start around 7:15. Gun time was 8:00. I spent some time doing the needful - warm up jog, port-a-john visit, some light stretching. About 10 minutes before 8:00, I made my way to the back of the pack. We sang the national anthem, and then, we were off!

I was out of the gate according to plan - 09:13, 09:17, 09:19. My plan was to float between 09:04-09:30 and see how I was feeling after 5-10k. I really wanted to keep the HR down between 140-150 for as long as possible. However, it became all too clear, very early on, that I had not done enough low-HR training, as my HR was already too high, even in these first few miles. I was up around 163-167.

For the next 4 miles, I settled into a slightly slower pace (09:38, 09:42, 09:38, 09:38). Still, I felt the HR was too high (162-164). I started chatting with another guy named Tony that was running his first marathon. We discussed triathlons and training, and the miles went by quickly.

At the mile 7-8 water stop, I saw Chris Russell, grabbed a GU and a high five, and he yelled something like "Adam! Rockin' it!". This gave me a charge. I ran on, and saw another friend Alett at mile 8. I was pumped up as I crossed the Tyngsboro bridge and began the back-side of the first loop. I had told Alett that I didn't see the 4:00 stretch goal happening, but that I was planning to finish strong. My HR was creeping higher, but I kept pressing on, determined to see whether or not I'd hit the half at around 2:00. Miles 8-13 looked like: 08:53, 09:03, 09:06, 08:55, 09:10, 09:14 with avgerage HR between 168-173. Still way too high.

I hit 13.1 at about 2:01. While I felt good about hitting that mark, I knew that 4:00 was going to be almost impossible. There was no way I could (or should) continue at the HR I was averaging, for another 13 miles. I began crossing the Rourke bridge feeling a bit down, but was immediately lifted, when I saw the family on the side of the road. My 6 year old had made a great sign that read "Go Dad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Later, she explained that she just "had to put all those exclamation points because she was so excited, and needed to fill the space". Seeing the family was a great boost. Also a great boost - I picked up a pace runner!

If you read the blog, you know that 2 weeks ago I pace ran my friend Bill during his first half marathon at Smuttynose. As I crossed the bridge, he started jogging along side me, with a fresh cup of Gatorade. I was so surprised. I asked him what he was doing, and he let me know he was planning to run a couple miles with me. I was psyched!

As we made our way on to the loop for my second time, I filled him in on the HR situation. I let him know that I needed to slow down. Well, I kept saying that I needed to slow down. In actuality, I wasn't slowing down too much (at first) - 09:34, 09:50, 09:49. We chatted, and the miles passed by. Saw Chris and Alett again before the bridge.

@cyktrussell: Stragglers at Baystate. Adam looked strong at 17.
@petfxr: Just saw @adamm9 past the 18 mile mark.
It dawned on me we were now running a pretty comfortable pace for Bill, so I asked him if he had a 1/2 in him. I think he was having too much fun to quit. We kept on, and I began to settle into a 10-10:30 pace - 10:22, 10:26, 10:32, 10:26, 10:31. Bill was great. He helped out at the water stops so I could keep moving forward, and having someone to talk to was a huge help. We kept on running, and ran right past the wall

You can't see it in this picture, but I was letting the wall know that it's "number one".

Eventually, I did run into the wall, for real. It began around mile 23, when my legs began to feel like lead. From then on, it was a bit uncomfortable, but I didn't stop. Every once in a while I'd feel a shot of pain in my quad, my knee would feel funky, legs heavy. Kept moving forward. That was my main motivation - not to stop.

Bill was enjoying himself, especially in the higher miles when I started to randomly curse at everything. "F you soccer players with energy!" He kept asking me how the HR was doing, and I kept replying that it was too high. We kept moving forward, but noticeably slowing down. 10:54, 11:30, 11:52. When we got to 25 (12:20), I let him know my plan. Just lower the HR down to 160ish, so that I could finish strong.

In the last mile, I started to feel much better. I did have one weird moment where my calf seized up and I jerked forward, nearly stumbling. It felt like someone had stabbed me. Breathe in and out. Repeat. Keep moving. Saw some girls at the last water stop dressed up like reindeer and elves. Bill assured me I wasn't hallucinating, despite my belief that we were in bat country. 12:09 during mile 26.

We crossed the Aiken bridge, and I knew that the family was waiting for me just outside the stadium. I had a spring in my step for that last 3/10ths of a mile (Garmin reported 26.36) - 09:31.


Just over mile 26, entering the stadium, feeling great!

Stepping onto the warning track was like walking on a cloud. It felt so good after 26 miles of asphalt. About half-way around the track, I turned it on. Full sprint to the end. I crossed the finish line feeling strong. Exactly how I wanted to feel at the end of this race.

Takeaways

I'm very happy with this race. Initially, I wasn't thrilled with my performance in the second half, but I am taking away nothing but positives.

  • Finished. Without walking. This was huge. I saw so many people doubled over on the side of the street, shuffling to survive. I listened to my body and slowed down, and I was better for it.
  • My two brothers last ran a marathon in '06. I beat their time by around 12 minutes. :)
  • I PR'd by an amazing - 1:37:21!
  • I had a blast out there with Bill during the second half.
  • Beautiful day, gorgeous scenery at times.
  • Met and talked to some cool people out there. It's great to connect with other runners, each with their own unique, interesting story.

After the race, I devoured some food, and made my way to a friend's house for the super important ice bath. Combined with an ice cold beer, it made for a nice recovery. :)

Thanks

I feel like I couldn't have gotten to where I am without a lot of help and support, so I'd like to say thanks.
  • To Jenni and the rest of my family - you have all put up with this (sometimes ridiculous) passion all year. I know sometimes that the long run on weekends cuts into the time we get to spend together, and I am incredibly grateful for all of your support, patience, cheer-leading, and perhaps most importantly - smoothie making.
  • To Bill - Thank you so much for running the 2nd half with me. It really, really meant a lot man.
  • To all my Twitter/DM friends - a sincere thank you. I really can't imagine where I'd be with running without all of you. This community is truly amazing.

It is truly a miraculous thing that I get to do these things. 12 years ago, at 350 lbs, I would have never imagined such a thing was possible. Then I did it. 2 years ago, I never imagined such a thing would be possible, again. Years from now, I can't wait to reflect upon the things that I can't imagine doing right now - ultras, BQ, etc.

Most things that seem impossible are achievable. It just takes a little consistency and discipline. I'll leave you with a few quotes. The first I saw on Dailymile, on the day of the marathon. The second, is something I remind myself almost every day. You can change your life. It all starts right now.

"We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons."-- Jim Rohn
"All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation." -- Buddha

Until next time, run well brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Smuttynose and Taper Time

Well, here we are, less than a week to Bay State. It's been a busy couple of weeks since my 20 mile training run. My last two training runs were the Smuttynose Half Marathon and a nice and easy 8 miler this past weekend. I'm trying hard to rest during this maddening taper time leading up to the race...

Smuttynose

This year, I had the honor and privilege of running with my friend Bill (Fishadad) during his first half-marathon. He's been on a personal journey to lose 50lbs and run that distance during this calendar year. I am psyched to have been a small part of this journey!

On race day, there was a Dailymile meetup. I got to see some friends I'd previously met, and put faces to many other Dailymilers. Here's a shot of the crew, before the race -



The race itself was great. Bill's target was right around 10:30, which was a perfect relaxed pace for me. In actuality, he outperformed his goal most of the race. He had to dig deep in the last couple of miles, but he pulled it off in right around 2:16. Congratulations to him on a great first half marathon outing!

We met a couple of other DM/Twitter friends along the course, and after the race, we made our way back to finish line to cheer on Luau and Oblinkin as they both chased the holy grail of distance running - the elusive BQ. It was awesome to be there to see these guys achieve their goals.

As an added bonus, my brother Jim (the ironman) came up and ran the race. He set a new mark for me to shoot for in the half-marathon, finishing in 1:48:42, besting my PR by almost 3 minutes. Gives me a nice new goal at the 1/2 distance. I aim to do the same for him at Bay State.

It was a great day to run, to see old and new friends, and to enjoy our reward for racing -



Taper

After Smuttynose, I looked at the schedule and realized I was headed for the dreaded taper. I had an 8 mile run on Saturday, which was gorgeous. Perfect clear, crisp weather, and the leaves are really starting to change around here...



I took it easy, but kept drifting toward m-pace. I was really comfortable anywhere between 9:04-9:30, between high zone 2, low zone 3. Tried to think about resting and relaxing during this last week. After the run, I attended a wedding, where I had a chance to rock some VFFs...



Who says you can't rock a tux and KSOs?

That was Saturday. Since then I've just been trying to stay off my feet. I downloaded Spirit of the Marathon which I watched yesterday, while reading everyone's updates from the Chicago Marathon. It's really motivational, and I'll probably watch it a few more times before Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday, I summarized my goals the other day on Twitter. They are as follows -

  1. Have fun and finish. Hopefully, finish strong
  2. Try to stick to a sub-4:00 pace (9:04ish)
  3. A couple of years ago, my brothers ran the Cape Code marathon, and had a finishing time of 4:39. I'd like to beat this, so that they have something to shoot for next time they decide to train for 26.2

The most important, to me, is to just go out and have a great time. It should be nice weather, and I'm familiar with the course. I've put in the training, logged the miles, dragged my butt out of bed at ungodly hours and run through wind, rain, heat, and my own self-doubts.

To borrow a phrase from my buddy Doug - "I've already done it. Now it’s time to take my victory lap. Time to go get it."

Until next time, run well brothers and sisters.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reevaluating Goals for Baystate

There are some days when the GU's you squeeze, water you gulp, and the endurolytes you pop are simply not enough. Sometimes, the pill you need to swallow is harder to get down. It tastes bitter, and even great men have choked on it. I'm talking about ego.

I had a tough 20-miler yesterday. I drove up to Lowell with the wife and kids to run part of the Bay State Marathon Course. My goal: to run pace , right around 9:04 for as long as possible and see how I felt after 20. This was to be a litmus test. A race simulation, a predictive aid. I rode the course last weekend on my mountain bike, and felt pretty confident about the course. It's fairly flat, with a few very small hills. I was admittedly nervous about the distance, but felt pretty confident going out.

I met some other runners about a mile in, and we chatted a bit. Turned out they were going to run SmuttyNose, where I'll be pacing my bud Fishadad during his first half-marathon. After a few minutes, I left them behind, with a bounce in my step, moving forward with alacrity.

The first 6-7 miles went by uneventfully. My heart rate was running a little high, but I kind of ignored it. My rationalization was that I'd stop when I met the wife for more water, somewhere between miles 9-10. The little hills came and went, and I was passing other people out on what seemed like their LSD's. I was so focused on the pace that I neglected to pay even the slightest bit of attention to perhaps the most critical aspect of this run - the temperature.

By mile 9, my HR was pegged in the 93-95% range. I thought "wow, I really need to slow it down and calm down a bit". When I finally stopped for water, I realized that this was going to be a tough run. I got back on the road, ran for a mile or two, and could not get the HR under control. Defeated and depleted, I started taking walk breaks.

I'm not sure why I didn't simply adjust my pace to account for the heat. And the heat was brutal - 88* or so. Unseasonably warm by any standards. I could have just slowed down and had a nice, enjoyable run. But I had it my head that I was going to run pace, and I had built up and placed so much meaning on this long run. Stubbornly, I couldn't let go.

I fell apart in mile 17. I was dehydrated, dizzy, and just a wreck. I got more water and walked nearly the entire 17th mile. While walking, I reflected upon my personal journey, and though a lot about my stretch goal of running a 4:00 marathon. I thought for sure that this was impossible. I felt pathetic. I had trained so hard, and was just falling apart out on the race course. What would happen on race day? Why have I invested 15 weeks of effort only to just fail on the main stage?

I started thinking about the weeks and weeks it took for me to lose 150 pounds, and then nearly 100 pounds again, 8 years later. Certainly there were times where I'd go to weigh-in, and gain 5 pounds. I'd be wrecked, and have similar thoughts. This effort in the heat triggered some really old emotions and thought patterns, that I'd long since buried.

As I moved slowly forward, a sweaty, disheveled mess, I had a moment of clarity. A lesson I'd forgotten. It's not about the goal, it's about the journey. When I didn't hit my mark at a weigh-in, I learned how to cope. I learned that slow, consistent improvement really was the key to long term success. I realized that it really didn't matter if I hit this arbitrary mark of 4:00 in the marathon. I had fallen into the trap of placing some high level of significance upon a number, a goal; instead of focusing on the journey itself - the running. The part that I truly enjoy. No. Love.

I waited for my heart to calm down, and started another walk/run regimen. By miles 19 and 20 I was doing a 1/2 mile walk, 1/2 mile run, finishing the last half mile at my intended marathon pace. I felt completely destroyed, but strong at the end.

Now, I've since had some time to reflect upon the foolhardy effort I put forth yesterday. I've read a bunch of sites that talk about slowing your pace in increased temperature (something I already knew, but decided to ignore). I went out for a fantastic brick workout this morning, and felt absolutely great at a pace fairly close to my target pace. All of these things have not changed my mind after yesterday's run.

I've got to trust my training. The numbers all point to me being able to run close to a 4:00 marathon. And if/when I do that, I'll be absolutely ecstatic, but, I've set aside that number. I have a new goal for Bay State in three weeks. A simpler goal -

Enjoy the run

And I think I'll be pretty damn happy to cross the finish line, regardless of pace.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You CAN change your life. Like me, like Ben did.

This was making the rounds this weekend, thought I would share it here. Truly inspirational story of one man's journey through weight loss, running, and eventually an Ironman. So similar to my own story, this really hit home.

You CAN change your life.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Year of Races, and Lex's Run

On September 12th, 2009, I ran a 5k road race with my brother and his wife. They were trying to run a race each month, and at the time, I thought - what a fantastic way to recommit to running and staying healthy. I had been running off and on through the summer months and really wanted to renew my focus on running, with an eye on running a couple of half marathons and maybe a full in 2010.

That morning, in a misty, light rain, I took the first steps of what has proven to be a fantastic journey. I finished that race in 28:17, and vowed to run a road race each month left in 2009, and in every month in 2010. I am proud to say that I have achieved that goal. Along the way, I have completed two half-marathons, and the grueling hills of Stu's 30k. I've run into both Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. I've raised money for some fantastic causes. I've run along side great friends, and gotten to meet some really awesome people from the local running community. In just over two weeks, I'll be running the Smuttynose Half Marathon. In just over a month, I'll be running the Bay State Marathon. I'm pretty excited about October.

The culmination of my year of races occurred one year to the date, this past weekend, when I ran Lex's Run. If you don't know about Lex's Run, you should definitely check it out. It was my favorite race of the year thus far. Doug & Lex, the race organizers, are really putting together a top notch event for the running community. The course was great, the swag was excellent, and the energy was just awesome. I got to meet some really, really great people - Chris Russell of the Run Run Live podcast, Matt Wilson / Luau (Run Luau Run). These are guys I really look up to. Chris has qualified and ran Boston a bunch of times and is just a really strong, fast runner. Matt is trying to BQ this year, and is a fellow VFF lover. I got to meet a handful of other Twitter/Dailymile friends, and I got to meet the truly inspirational Mary McManus. It was really cool to get to hang out and chat with everyone after finishing the race, as we cheered on everyone else running. The picture is of me, Luau (3rd place), and John (2nd place).

The race course itself was unique - a little bit of everything. Some trails, a huge hill at 3/4 mi mark, some flats, and a nice downhill finish. I was very pleased with my time - 24:28. I didn't sleep a lot the night before (bachelor party), and the day before, I had run 19 miles. But even so, I ran 8 seconds shy of a PR on a challenging course.

While I was out on my run this morning, I reflected on the year of running road races. In just a year, I have knocked off almost 4 minutes of my 5k time. I'm very happy about this. I'm very happy that I've gotten to run in some fantastic events. But most of all, I'm happy that I have rediscovered, reinvigorated, and reignited my passion for running.

So, a heartfelt thanks to my brother Joe and his wife, for getting me out there one year ago. And many, many thanks to everyone in this truly amazing running community, who have welcomed me, cheered me on, provided tips, suggestions, encouragement, and just been really, really wonderful.

Until next time, run happy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's All Relative

I've got a pretty busy October lined up. I'll be pacing my friend Bill (Fishadad) at the Smuttynose Half-Marathon in Hampton on October 3rd. On October 9th, I'm participating in a wedding, and on October 17th, I'm running the Bay State Full marathon. On October 31st, I'll dress up like a pumpkin and run around the neighborhood. OK. Maybe that last part isn't true, but it sure would be fun.

My stretch goal for the Bay State marathon is to break the magical 4:00 mark. Based on my half-marathon distance PR at the VCB 1/2 earlier this year (1:51:04), the MacMillan calculator puts my equivalent marathon time at 3:54:14, or an 08:57 pace. The pace required for a 4:00 flat marathon is 9:09. Last weekend, I went out and ran 17 miles and averaged 9:01. I feel pretty positive about that run, and about my chances at Bay State, for several reasons -

1) I've been putting in the miles. I've been following the the Higdon Novice 2 program and making small tweaks here and there - like adding Yasso 800's on speed days and running progression when I'm feeling up to it on Tuesday/Thursday runs.
2) I've added cycling as a cross-training element. This has made a huge impact on my breathing and overall fitness.
3) I've been running in the VFFs, which has started to change my stride. I find that I'm able to get higher turnover with a more upright posture, and I'm not heel striking as hard/bad as before.
4) HILLS. Everywhere I train near my house is hilly. Bay State is flat. Hills are speed work in disguise.

That said, I still have a lot of time before the marathon to bolster my chances of a sub-4:00 showing. Like everyone else, I often do most of my reflection/thinking during long runs. This past weekend, while out for 17, I got to thinking about my fitness level, and my goals for this fall, and how they compare to other people I know, most notably, my brother, who recently completed a full ironman triathlon on July 31st.

I started thinking about my own journey, from morbid obesity 10 years ago, to completing the Kona marathon in 2001, to gaining back 1/2 of that weight, to today - when I look in the mirror and see myself at the highest fitness level of my life. I thought back to last year, when I began running again in earnest, weighing 50+ lbs more than I do today. I was running 3-4 miles with average paces of 11 and 12 minute miles. I thought about my first marathon in Kona - where I posted a 6:03. A 13:51 pace. To put this in perspective, my brother ran a marathon, after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, in 5:20 (12:12 pace). This is simply amazing to me.

Last weekend, we had a combination birthday-party/ironman-celebration for him. It was fantastic to get to shake the hand of an ironman. I tweeted about it -

Today I shook the hand of an ironman triathlete. Then, I gave him a hug. Then I said - I'm proud of you, little brother.

Then I told him that maybe someday I'd do one. But I'd do it faster. :)



Here is a picture of the shadowbox that the family put together, commemorating his achievement. I am insanely proud of what he has done. I am also inspired. While I'm not much of a swimmer, I vow to get in the water and try. Just, not yet. I've got some other things I want to do first, like go back to Kona in 2011 on the 10 year anniversary of my 1st marathon, and crush my previous time. The key part of this goal is beating my time.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Am I losing this weight fast enough? Do I really belong out here with these other runners? Am I crazy for attempting this distance? Look at those guys on Daily Mile - they're posting 7:30 paces over 24 miles. I am terrible.

SNAP OUT OF IT!

Everybody's journey is unique. When I was 350 pounds, I was happy to complete a 1.5 mile walk at lunch. I didn't dream of running a marathon. If you told me that 10 years later, I'd be aiming to break 4 hours in a marathon, and thinking about triathlons, I would have called you insane. Slowly, you make progress. One step at a time. And that progress is realized by going out and trying to do a little bit better than you did the time before. You might not always do it, but if you want to improve, you can and you will.

I've seen tremendous improvements in my fitness level over the last year. I dropped the weight and have been maintaining in the same 5-7 lb range all year. My running pace has improved dramatically. I believe that there is some room for further improvement. I can probably drop another 10-15 pounds, and tone up some more. I can train harder. I will run faster. Someday, I will qualify for Boston. Someday, I will do a triathlon.

For now, I am happy to achieve MY goals. I may be a mid-to-back-packer. I may not post the most miles in my DM leaderboard, but I'm constantly reminded that it's all relative. Even when I forget, I've got friends to remind me.

@adamm9 you are getting faster my friend!
@luau Yes indeed. Feels pretty awesome! I'm no match for some of you #smutty racers though. :)
@adamm9 it's all relative...


Next time you get caught comparing your progress to those around you, whether it be in real life, online, or just in your head - please do yourself a favor - take a deep breath and repeat after me -

It's All Relative.

Do the best YOU can. You'll thank yourself for it down the road.

Until next time - run, run, run.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bay State Training Recap (Weeks 4-6)

Since the Harvard Pilgrim 10k, I've bumped up mileage, and incorporated several new aspects into my training. Things that I think are going to help me in the long run (pun intended). Thought I would share some of these things here -

Vibram Five Fingers
One month ago, I found a local shop that carried Vibram Five Fingers. These are minimalist "shoes" that have recently enjoyed an explosion of interest as the barefoot/minimalist running trend gains popularity. Essentially, they are a thin Vibram sole, a super thin insole, and a velcro strap. I got the KSO model (Keep Stuff Out) and instantly fell in love.

I took them out for a mile a few times, and gradually worked my way up to 3 miles. They have been my shoe of choice for the last 2 weeks training, on Tuesday and Thursday short runs. Running in VFFs takes a little bit of getting used to, especially if you have logged many miles in more conventional running shoes. The tendency to heel strike is largely discouraged (no padding == some pain). The muscles in the foot and lower legs are activated differently, and the amount of feedback that you get while running is immense. I feel like I'm putting cinder blocks on my feet when I strap on the Adrenalines for weekend long runs now.

4 weeks in them and I already feel the effects. I am becoming more of a mid/front foot striker, my balance is improving. I even wear them around on the weekend - running errands, going grocery shopping, etc. I get some weird looks and a lot of questions. But I happily explain how humans were meant to be barefoot, and not duped by clever marketing (Although I must admit I do love some of the Nike motivational ads).

This week my short runs bump up to 4 miles - can't wait to test the VFFs at that distance.

Mountain Bike
Two weeks ago, I braved the dusty shed in my backyard to dig out an old mountain bike that my younger brother had sold to me years ago. Probably close to 12-13 years ago. It is still in pretty decent shape. Needed a new tube and a helmet for the rider. The gears slip a little bit, which I'll have to figure out, but for now, I'm dealing with. The most important thing - this now gives me a new way to cross train, and so far, I'm loving it!

I've taken the bike out on distances up to 16 miles. Still getting used to shifting and dealing with the "gentle hills" around my house, but it is awesome to get out and do something other than running. And, I've learned a very important aspect of training - legs feel better after a long run if you get out on the bike the day after - I was amazed. After my last couple of long runs, I have gotten out for at least an hour the next day, and my legs feel fantastic after the ride.

Can't wait to get the gears taken care of and get out there more often.

With these two things now in my training repertoire, I feel like I am getting a more well rounded training regimen. Next on my list to add - weight training. I do a bit of strength training now with push-ups, but that is not enough. I want to get a more well rounded program developed so I can really take this training to the next level, and avoid injury. I'm on week 7/18 this week. Plenty of time to get stronger, faster, better before October.

Maybe that 4:00 marathon is a realistic goal after all.

Now, the numbers -

Week 6
07/25/10 Cycling 15.73 12.0mph
07/24/10 Running 9.74 09:14:00
07/22/10 Running 3.12 09:07:00
07/21/10 Running 6.32 08:23:00
07/21/10 Running 1.44 09:40:00
07/20/10 Running 3.12 09:18:00

Week 5
07/18/10 Cycling 16.3 12.7mph
07/17/10 Running 12.36 09:17:00
07/15/10 Running 2.08 08:14:00
07/15/10 Cycling 12.72 12.7mph
07/15/10 Running 3.12 08:43:00
07/14/10 Running 6 09:06:00
07/13/10 Running 3.12 09:32:00
07/12/10 Cycling 14.12 14.4mph
07/12/10 Cycling 5.78 13.3mph

Week 4
07/10/10 Running 12.12 10:13:00
07/09/10 Running 1.61 10:24:00
07/08/10 Running 3.12 08:53:00
07/07/10 Running 1.75 08:05:00
07/07/10 Running 6 09:05:00
07/06/10 Running 3.12 09:17:00
07/05/10 Running 1.75 08:31:00

Until next time: run, run, run.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Harvard Pilgrim 10k

On July 4th, I ran in the first ever Harvard Pilgrim 10k road race at Patriot Place. Over 2,500 people ran in this 10k event, which culminated with the finish line on the 50 yard line at Gillette Stadium. It was a hot and humid morning, and I was one of a half-dozen people I "know" participating, including my brother and his wife.

I was pretty excited to run this race. Having already finished a race at Fenway this year, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to run into yet another New England sports arena in the same year. Now if only I could find a race that finishes in the garden, I'd be all set!

The race started at 9, and man was it already hot. My younger brother, on a good day, when he's been running frequently, runs sub 8:00 times, informed me that he had been out of practice, and was simply looking to run under a 9:00 pace. This was perfect. I was shooting for something under marathon pace (08:57ish).

We pushed out a little fast. I'm beginning to dislike the start of these races that have a large crowd. It's always difficult to find a decent pace, and I feel rushed in the first mile. Anyways, by mile 3-4 we were cruising. A couple of times I said I was going to slow down, but didn't. By mile 5 it was actually him asking me to slow down. I'd be lying if I said that a small part of me wasn't beaming with pride at the fact that I was now outrunning my younger, much faster brother. Ahh, the benefits of consistency and training!

The course itself was kind of boring. The first mile was running out of the stadium. Mile two had us running through condo construction and some kind of not-so-scenic streets. The route was deemed as 'flat' although I swear it felt uphill for the most part. The coolest thing, which made the race as far as I'm concerned, was the finish.

As we turned into the stadium and through the entry tunnel, we could see the giant inflatable Patriots helmet at the end of the entryway. We got to run through that and on to the field toward the 50 yard line finish. That was AWESOME! I was jumping and waving my arms in a silly attempt to get the crowd fired up. It was that good of a time.

Anyways, finished with an overall time of 52:48, for an average pace of 08:30. Well below my marathon pace. Toward the end I actually felt like I could have pushed it and maybe broken 50:00, but I wanted to stay with my brother. When I was getting back into running last year, he and his wife Ashley were hugely supportive. They encouraged me to run road races, and set me off on this course of running a road race every month.

I personally feel like I owe them a huge thanks for getting me going in the right direction.

I'll close with a couple pictures from the event.







Until next time: run, run, run!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bay State Marathon Training, Week 2 Recap

Total Miles: 24
Long Run: 9.15 miles
VFF Miles: 3

Week 2 went well. I had the familiar 3-5-3 combo on Tues, Wed, Thursday. Between 8:40-8:50 for an average pace on the mid-week runs, which I feel pretty good about. Saturday's long run was a 9:02. I took it easy except for a 1 mile stretch on the rail trail, where I 'opened up' to see what I could do. I managed a 7:57 for that one mile, which I am pretty pleased with.

If you were paying attention up top, you'll notice that I picked up a pair of VFFs. I'll write about them a little bit more in another post, but let me just say: I LOVE 'EM so far!

That's all for now. I had a nice week of training, with some basketball mixed in on Thursday/Friday night for some cross training.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bay State Marathon Training, Week 1 Recap

Two weeks ago, I pulled the trigger on the Bay State Marathon. This race, touted as the flattest in New England, takes place on October 17th. Count backwards, carry the one, break out your calculator app or abacus. You'll come to the profound realization that last week was my first training week for said event.

I'm actually going to follow Hal Higdon's Novice 2 program. I may alter the Wednesday workouts to incorporate more speed play, but for now I'm just settling back into the groove of getting the runs in during the morning on the weekdays. So without further delay, here we go.

Total Miles: 20
Long Run: 8.11 miles

My schedule is basically T/W/R runs, with Wednesday runs alternating between moderate pace and race pace runs. The Wednesday runs are typically the "medium" distance runs as well.

Last week, I smoked the Wednesday run, pace wise. According to the MacMillan pace calculator, my equivalent marathon pace (based on the most recent time at VCB 1/2) is: 3:54:14, or an 08:57 pace. On Wednesday, I ran closer to an 08:30 over 5 miles, which I was pretty pleased with.

The other runs last week, including the 8-miler on Saturday, were at right around the 9:00 mark. I feel fantastic that I am getting faster with my "comfortable" pace.

On Sunday, for a little bit of cross training, I went to a nearby court and shot hoops for about 90 minutes. It was a bit more like speed drills though, as I found myself running up and down the court and stopping for pull up jumpers and such. I worked up quite a sweat, and felt like a kid doing it.

So its Tuesday, which means I've started another week of training. Got my three miles in early today, which was fantastic. Got 5 and then 3 and then 9 on Saturday. And I'm definitely going to find time to get in some more hoops!

So far so good. Until next time: run, run, run!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vermont Covered Bridges Half-Marathon

Did you know that there are more covered bridges per square mile in Vermont than any other place in the world? The Green Mountain state boasts over 100 of these unique features, scattered throughout the state. Did you know that there is a half marathon that runs near a handful of these picturesque structures, through the villages of Woodstock and Quechee? Yes folks, last Sunday I had the privilege of running in the 19th annual Vermont Covered Bridges Half Marathon

I had been looking forward to this race all year. Registration was open for a mere 18 minutes last December. I anxiously awaited the 7pm open time, and got my application in early. I was accepted, and then the 6 month countdown began. While I waited for this race, I tackled some other challenges. I ran the Half at Hamptons, where I set the PR I would be up against in Vermont. And who could forget Stu's 30k. Once you've run that, you'll never look at hills the same way again.

So as the CBHM crept closer, my excitement rose, along with my concern. If you read the last race recap, you know that I twisted my ankle during the Run To Home Base 9k, just two weeks ago. I had gone out for runs since, but very gingerly, and with the aid of an ankle sleeve. My strategy on race day would not be any different. Nice and slow to start, with the ankle brace. If I was feeling good, push the pace a bit. I wasn't sure what race day would have in store for me.

The night before, we stayed in the little town of Quechee. On Sunday morning, we awoke to a constant rain, with temperatures of just around 60F. I don't think it actually broke 61F that day, and the rain didn't really break either. Jenni dropped me off at the start, which was at the Suicide Six Ski Area. I mingled with other runners and chatted about the race. I learned of the "one hill" on the course, and one runner was nice enough to give me her trash bag to stay warm in the cold, driving rain.

At 10:15 on the nose, we began.

No corrals at this race, so the beginning was a bit of a cluster. Slow going, which was OK by me as I was paying really close attention to foot placement and trying not to turn my ankle again. The course takes you through open farmland, past the "Meadow Covered Bridge" and down into Woodstock, where we crossed the "Middle Bridge" (the only bridge you actually cross on the course). After a few miles, and certainly by the time I was in Woodstock, I was feeling pretty good. I was running just under 9:00 minute miles. At the 4 mile mark I decided it was time to push it a bit and get some in the bank.

Banking minutes has become my favorite strategy for the half marathon. Basically, I start out somewhat comfortably, and see what I'm pacing over the first 3-4 miles. Then the calculations begin: "If I get to 10 miles and I'm at this time, then I can run at this pace to the end and still finish in that time". For the next 6 miles I paid close attention to my overall time and picked it up as much as I comfortably could. By the time I was through 10 miles, I knew I could run 10:30's the rest of the way and still break my PR. This was mind blowing, as I didn't really think that I was pushing that hard, especially on the ankle. Maybe it was the race day excitement, maybe it was the hyper attention I was paying to my foot, maybe it was the absolute deluge of rain, rain, and more rain - but the race just seemed to fly by.

I slowed a bit miles 11 and 12 and turned it on again for the last mile. I finished strong, charging over the finish line. I felt as if I could go at least another 5-6 miles at the pace I was going, which was an incredibly empowering feeling.

I was bummed that I missed Jenni at the finish. In fact, that was my only gripe about the race. It was the first year that they ran the shuttle buses for the spectators, and they were completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of people looking to bum a ride. Otherwise, it was very well organized, and very well supported by the local community. There were families out cheering the runners on, even in the adverse conditions. There were drummers and folk bands setup every other mile or so, jamming out and giving everyone a little bit of a pick-me-up on an otherwise dismally gray, cold, wet morning.

I finished the race with a new PR. Shattering my old mark by almost 5 minutes.

516/1777 overall 113/248 in my age bracket 1:51:04 net time 8:29 pace

Super excited with the results, I can't wait to try it again next year. No rest for the runners though. I'm close to pulling the trigger on the Bay State Marathon, October 17th. Which means if I want to follow an 18 week training program, I'd start on Monday.

Until next time: run, run, run!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Run To Home Base

On May 23rd, I finished the inaugural Run To Home Base 9K at Fenway Park. It sounds a little silly to say finished when we're only talking about 9K, a measly 5.6 miles. But at least 2.5 of those miles were some of the most challenging that I've run. Not due to the weather, course, or my nutrition. I didn't pound beers the night before or stay up all night in restless anticipation (although I did sleep in a Motel 6). No, these miles were tough because I ran injured.

But before we get to that, let me give a bit of background on the race. Put together by the Red Sox Foundation and Mass General Hospital, this charity event raised $2.4 million dollars in its first year! This money will stay right here in Massachusetts, and is used to help veterans returning home with post traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injuries. What an AWESOME cause to run for! With your help, I raised over $1300 dollars for this cause. I truly felt honored, toeing the line on Yawkey way, supporting thousands of brave men and women that risk their lives every day so that we may live ours here at home.

That said - on to the race!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a road race. We spent the night about 15 minutes south of the city, as we were required to pick up the race packets the day before, so it was easy for us to get to Fenway early. Some 2020 runners lined up on Yawkey way. I took my spot near the 9:00 pace flag and waited. The gun sounded shortly after 8:00am, and we were off!

The first couple of miles were a blast. As we left Fenway park and made our way over the river, I settled into a nice, fast pace. This was largely due to the fact that I had locked sights on a cutie running a bit faster than me - hey! I'm a guy, whatdya want!? Anyway - after a little chit chat, I passed my pacer and pushed on, probably at around an 8:00 pace. After the first bend in the course, when I started the first "back" portion of this "double out and back" course (kind of shaped like a T), I saw two guys in full combat gear, boots and pack included. That's when it happened.

It was careless, a momentary lapse. I was so charged up by the energy of the race, and seeing people running the race in full gear, that I turned to cheer them on. When I did, I made a cardinal mistake. I took my eyes off the road for just a split second. And in that second, I put my left foot square into a rut in the road, and rolled my ankle, hard. I went flailing forward wildly, frantically waving my arms in an effort to stay upright. My glasses went flying in the grass, yet I somehow remained upright. I heard people shouting "nice recovery" as I hobbled back to grab my glasses.

I took a few steps on the foot. It hurt. But it didn't seem like anything was broken, so I started a quicker walk, leading to a jog. Some Marines passed me and shouted their familiar slogan - "Pain is weakness leaving the body!!!"

I have to say, that energized me. I started running a little faster. Before long, I was back up to around an 8:30ish pace (I had no watch, I'm guessing). I began to think about all of the training that I've been through. Of all the times I've walked around my house, sore as hell from a previous days long run. How, when I first started running, I couldn't run 5 miles without being sore, without feeling pain. How leading up to this very race, I thought - "it's ONLY 5 miles". The pain, or weakness that I initially felt when running this distance had been replaced by confidence. I no longer looked at 5 miles as a challenge, but as a luxury. An enjoyable short run. I looked forward to more grueling distances - a half marathon in June, a full later this fall. Who knows what type of "pain" I have in store after that? I thought too, about the soldiers returning home from war, with pain and injuries that I will never begin to understand, and never hope to experience personally.

Fueled by adrenaline, I ran through the pain. I knew that as soon as I finished, I would need to elevate and apply ice, immediately. I also knew that I could very well have been doing more harm than good, running on a bum ankle. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make to finish this race. As I ran through the gates and onto the warning track in center field, a surge of adrenaline, happiness, disbelief, gratitude and sheer joy rushed through my body. It was surreal.

I crossed the finish line and made my way to home base. I set foot on the plate. My throbbing ankle. My little bit of pain leaving the body. My sacrifice in honor of those that sacrifice far, far more. My race was complete. I finished in 46:05, for an average pace of 08:15!

I made my way to the medical staff and got some ice. I sat in probably the best seats I've ever had for a Sox game, with my foot up, and ice applied, watching the rest of the amazing people running this race cross the finish line, and have their chance to cross home plate. After a while, the groundskeepers opened up the field, and we all had a chance to go down on to the clay, and walk around the warning track. It was an truly awesome experience. The whole family had a blast! And even though I was nursing a swollen ankle, I made my way to the monstah, to Pesky pole, and even stood on top of the home dugouts.

All in all, it was an amazingly fun day. We got to go down on the field at Fenway, I got in a run, raised money for a truly worthwhile cause that hits close to home, as Jenni's dad is a two-time Iraq war veteran, who also ran this race!

So I'll leave you with a few pictures.


Joe and I before the race


With the best cheering squad, after the race


After the race with Grandpa Joe

Lastly, I'd like to sincerely extend my thanks to all of you. If you donated, if you have supported me in my efforts to lose weight, get healthy, become a better runner, or even if you are reading this post - thank you.

Until next time: run, run, run. Well, maybe I'll ice this ankle a bit first.... :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Marathon for Boston

You should run Boston! You should crash the race and run without a number. You've already done the hard part!


This is what I've been hearing for the last month. I can't argue with the claims. Over the last 6 weeks, I've averaged around 33 miles a week. I've gone out on 17 and 19 mile runs over terrain far hillier than any speed bumps that Hopkington to Boston has to offer. I've run Stu's 30k and set a 5k PR - in the spring - something a bit uncommon. It is fair to say that I have had a productive winter running season.

There isn't really any reason why I couldn't have entered to run Boston this year, save my own personal goals. My main marathon goal remains the 2011 Kona Marathon. Marking the 10 year anniversary of my historic weight loss efforts of 1999-2001, the 2011 race in Hawaii will represent the culmination of a couple years hard work to get to the healthiest weight and fitness level of my adult life. I may run Bay State later this year, but that will just be appetizer for the main course in Kona next year.

Until then, I have a number of half-marathons in my sights, including the Vermont Covered Bridges Half, and the inaugural Worcester Half. Add to this the charity race at Fenway in May and I've a pretty full schedule already. So I just couldn't see myself adding Boston this year.

But that doesn't mean I won't run like the rest of you. I just spread it out over two days.

This weekend, I ran 26.62 miles (13.37 Saturday and 13.25 Sunday). Through misty rain, over hilly terrain, and through wind gusts under cloudy skies, I ran on.

Consider it a tribute of sorts - to those of you that will toe the line tomorrow at perhaps the greatest event that our sport has to offer. The 114th running of the Boston Marathon. If you're an invitational entry, enjoy it. If you've managed to qualify - savor it.

Either way, I wish everyone running tomorrow the best of luck.

Run, run, run!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Michael Dunleavy 5k

On April 11th, I made my way out to Winchester for the 8th annual Michael Dunleavy 5k road race. My friend Sarah was participating in her very first 5k and I wanted to be there to support her. It was an absolutely beautiful day for a run, despite a little wind.

I wasn't really anticipating a very strong race. I ran 8 miles on Saturday and then ate/drank at a wedding all day/night. My primary reason for the race was to lend support.

The course had a few small hills throughout the first 2 miles and then a whopping climb at about 2.5. Combined with the wind it made for a challenge. As I said, I wasn't really expecting much, but I was extremely happy with the results when I crossed the finish line in 24:21 (07:50 pace), a PR for me by over a minute!

48 151 Adam Monty 33 40/145 M 14/25 M3039 JEFFERSON MA 24:21 7:50

After grabbing a water, I went back to find Sarah and accompany her the rest of the race. She was run/walking it, so after we got up the big hill, I saw her triumphantly cross the finish line. It was great to get to be a part of someone else's first time out!

Here are a couple of pics from the race.

Finishing:



Sarah and I after the race:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

NESN Video

NESN has put together a story on the Run To Home Base charity event that I'll be participating in on May 23rd in Boston. To view the story, please visit the NESN site here:

NESN Run To Home Base Video

If you've already donated, thank you very, very much. If you would like to help, there is still time! Click on the link in the right-hand side bar, and thank you!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekly Recap (Mar 8-14)

Mar 8 - 14
Total Mileage: 30 miles
Runs: 6
Long-run: 17 miles (@11:39)

My third 30 mile week in the last 6. I feel like 30 should probably be the cap of my mileage for a while. I'm not actively training for a marathon. Planning on taking it a little bit easier and focusing on some cross training in the upcoming weeks.

17 on Sunday in the rain was actually not as bad as I had feared. The rain wasn't backed by a very strong wind, so I actually ran without the hood up on my jacket. After about 2 hours out, I had some ankle pain. My running partner was taking walk breaks, and running at a slow pace for me (12:00), so it allowed me to flex the ankle and power through it. I felt good by the end, but soaked.

The next couple of weekends are pretty busy, so I'm not sure I see any other really long 15+ runs for a few weeks at least. Which is probably OK, as I should rest a bit.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stu's 30k


What is happiness? The feeling that power increases - that resistance is being overcome. - Nietzsche

Ever come across a challenge and think "never". Never could I do that. Never would I attempt that. Never should an otherwise rational, sane human being, subject himself to the physical and mental abuse of said challenge. I woke up with nervous excitement on Sunday morning to head out and tackle such a challenge - Stu's 30k road race.

Every runner in Central Massachusetts should know about Stu's. It has a long, storied 31-year history. Each year, in weather conditions ranging from snow squalls to downpours to wind gusts of over 20 mph, this race is run over the "rolling hills" around Wachusett Reservoir, starting and ending in Clinton, MA. It's a perfect training race for Boston, as it usually occurs in the first week of March.

This year, we were blessed with fantastic weather for the race. It was mid-40s and mostly sunny, with some wind gusts coming off the water that were pretty strong but manageable. The weather, however, is only one aspect of this race. This course is tough. With a total climb of 1150ft and elevation change of of close to 2300ft, you could say there are some hills.



My main goal was simply to finish. This race represents the longest distance that I have run to date, since getting back into running last year. For the metrically challenged, 30k == 18.64 miles. My previous long distance effort was last week's 15.25 mile effort. So I headed out somewhat slow.

I recall that when I looked at the elevation profile before the race, I was worried a bit about the third mile. In actuality, this wasn't so bad. I ran into Jenni and the kids between miles 4 and 5. It was the first of a handful of great morale boosters. They were the best cheerleaders, yelling "Go Daddy!" whenever they saw me. It brought a boost to my step and a smile to all the runners around me.

From mile 5 to 7 I ran with a couple of women that had recently run the Half at Hampton. We chatted about the upcoming races for the season, and I got some great suggestions on some summer races. I let them go ahead as I was starting to feel like I needed to save some gas.

Boy was I right. Miles 7-10 were killer. I thought the hill on Route 140 was never going to end. By the time we got to the little switch-back road, I was never so ready to stop climbing. Unfortunately, the rolling hills just kept coming, and coming, and coming. At about mile 12, I realized I was tracking at a sub-10 minute mile. This was was faster than my target (of say between 10:30-10:45), so I decided to just reign it in a bit. I stopped whenever I saw my cheering squad. It was great to get to say hi, have some water or a GU, and just take a bit of a break. I walked through the rest of the water stations.

Luckily, the hills started to let up after the 20k mark, and the course began a descent around the eastern side of the reservoir. The last two hills were killers, especially after 17 miles, but I'm happy to report that my strategy worked - I had enough gas left to run up both, passing some runners turned walkers.

As I made it toward the finish, I felt pretty strong. I could have turned it on a bit, but decided to just cruise in. I finished in 3:17, right around what I guesstimated I would do.

When I first decided to run this race, I wasn't sure how I would handle it. After my success at Hampton, I was very confident. In the two weeks in between, I started to get a bit nervous, as I read race reports and starting looking at the course in more detail. I was nervous up until the start. After miles 7-12, I felt sort of defeated, but slowing down when I saw the kids and at each water station replenished my body, mind, and spirit, and allowed me to overcome resistance. As I ran up the final ascent, I felt strong. Empowered.

Another goal met. Another challenge tackled. I felt stronger while overcoming resistance. Seems like happiness to me.

I'll leave you with a collage of pics from the race, including the best cheerleaders ever.



Until next time: run, run, run.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Recap

February 2010
Miles logged: 109 (up from 105 in January)
Longest Run: 15.25 miles
Race: Half at Hampton (13.1)

February was a great month. Adding speed work to the mix while training for the Half at Hampton has definitely improved my pace on distance runs. I ran my first official half-marathon in Hampton, and it was a PB for me for that distance, shaving around 10 minutes off my previous best!

The month ended with me heading out this morning for my longest distance since I ran the Kona marathon in 2001.

A few weeks ago, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for Stu's 30k (map here - a very challenging course around Wachusett Reservoir. I've been told -

Lot's of road sand, absurd road cambers, up hill finish, run it twice and both times finished in a snow squall, good race.

Most of the blog posts related to Stu's contain phrases like "race from hell", and "course was insane". Despite this, I plan on heading out next weekend to challenge myself.

So today found me attempting to bridge the gap between the half marathon last weekend, and the 30K staring me in the face next weekend. The longest time I've recorded since last fall (when I really began running consistently again) was around 2:15. Today I decided to target 2:45. I used the Daily Mile route mapper to chart out a nice hilly course around 15.25 miles.



The first 8-9 miles I felt strong. I kept having to slow down as I naturally fell into a pace that I really don't think I could maintain over 15, let alone, 19 miles. The hills came and went, and I meandered my way about town while it arose from its slumber and got moving. I drifted through the fog and mist, passing churches and donut shops along the way. I laughed when I pictured myself running with a cup of coffee and a donut. Instead, I decided to settle for the some water and a couple of GU's I had packed snugly in my fuel belt.

Miles 9-10 took me on a stretch of road that I will run on next week during Stu's, across the reservoir and near the Old Stone Church in West Boylston. If it is a clear day next week, the views around the reservoir are going to be fantastic!

After about 2 hours into the run, I had some slight ankle pain on the left side. I had to slow to an almost walk for a few seconds as I adjusted to the sensation. After a few minutes, I had worked it out and was moving along again. Just in time for the final ascent. I came up into our neighborhood and did my customary loop that I've come to love during my pre-dawn jaunts, and ended in the driveway, tired, but not spent. I am confident about next weekend.

I ended up hitting my mark, at about 2:46. I averaged around 10:50, which is great. I really want to slow it down. I've been climbing mileage each of the last 5 weeks without a drop down week. After Stu's, I'm taking some time off from climbing. After all, I'm not even really training for a marathon right now!

Last month, when I ran the Freezer Five, I got one of their trademark "reicycled" shirts.



Next week, I intend to earn one of these shirts, for real.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hampton Half

Well it was this past Sunday. The half-marathon at Hampton. What a great weekend! For me: great food before and after, a great day for a race, and a great finishing time. I completely surpassed my goal of 2:00 and came in at 1:55:52, for an overall pace of 08:50. I am very pleased.

Jenni's sister Sarrah was nice enough to let us crash at her place in Newburyport, a charming little coastal city Northeast of Boston that features a vibrant downtown life. Our time in Newburyport featured visits to: Cafe Di Siena, Fowles Cafe, Ten Center and Agave. Loved the sweets at Cafe Di Siena. The exclusive Ten Center is highly recommended. Agave was the perfect post-race spot for margaritas and their delicious Ceviche.

OK. Enough about fabulous dining.

The race started at 11 on Sunday. I got to the start around 10:30 and warmed up for a few minutes, jogging up and down the course, getting acclimated to the wind. I hadn't yet decided whether or not I was going to wear my outer layer (wind shell). After a few minutes outside, I decided to ditch the jacket and just go with my base layer + wind block layer, with a race tee over the top. Tights and running pants on the bottom.

In the midst of making my way back to the start, I bumped into Chris Russell, of Run Run Live podcast fame. Didn't exchange much but a hurried introduction and hand shake. But it was great to meet one of the guys in this welcoming running community that I admire. Mad Dog!

11 o clock approached, and I took my place toward the back of the pack. The gun sounded and we were off. The first few minutes were very slow, as 1100+ people made their way out of the gates. I noticed I was behind the 10:00 pace runner, and decided to pick it up a bit. By the time I hit the first mile marker, I was running around an 08:40 pace. I totally missed the mile 2 marker. Somewhere between mile 3 and 4, I found the 09:00 pace runner, who was admittedly a bit above pace. I passed him and vowed to stay ahead of him, acknowledging that if I encountered him again, I'd really pick it back up.

The next 5-6 miles were a steady, dare I say, comfortable 8:35-8:45 pace. As I cruised past mile markers I checked the watch. I was averaging anywhere between 2-4 minutes "in the bank". Running about 2-3 minutes below the 9:00 mile pace. Here's a picture from about 1/2 way through the race (I'm the runner in red on the far right)



The last 4 or so miles of the course took a turn and led between large estates and the vast ocean. The last 4 also featured the worst of the wind. All the while, I checked my watch at the markers, and kept plugging along, pretty happy with my progress. As I approached the mile 12 marker, I realized that I had enough time in the bank and enough gas in the tank to come in well under my goal of 2 hours. The last mile was euphoric. I knew I could practically walk the last bit and still finish nicely. I just ran at a comfortable pace, with an ear-to-ear grin, as I knew I was about to shatter this supposed stretch goal.

Here I am, with a photo finish -



Afterwards, I had to get out on the beach. First, to walk on something soft. Second, to stare out at the Atlantic in total awe of both it's beauty, and what I had just accomplished. Last year on race date, I weighed 252 lbs, and couldn't dream of finishing a half in under 2hrs. What a difference a year makes!



Post race, there were bananas and smoothie drinks and soup and Smutty Nose. After all that, here I am, with my medal.



Today, it was in the mid-40s. I know. I said I'd rest. But I just couldn't resist getting out for a recovery run. Ended up going around 5 miles at a 10:00ish pace. Quads were sore at first, but loosened up toward the end. Tomorrow morning, I return my pre-dawn 5k ritual. Stu's 30K is two weeks away, and I need to keep moving.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Training Recap (Feb 8 - Feb 14)

Feb 8 - Feb 14
Total Mileage: 30 miles
Runs: 6
Long-run: 12 miles (@09:35)

I had a pretty strong training week. My 5k comfortable pace runs became progression or tempo-runs. On Thursday, I had some margaritas at lunch and decided to get in some double time. Saturday, I went out for a 5k race-pace, and it turned into a PR over that distance for me! I finished in 25 minutes, averaging around 08:08!

Sunday's long run was 12 miles. It is a very hilly route that takes me over and around Wachusett reservoir (sharing some stretches of road with the Stu's 30k route). I averaged about 09:35 and finished in 01:55. I figure if I can average sub-10 on a hilly course over 12 miles, I might have a shot at a sub-2 hour half-marathon next week at Hampton.

Ice bath was rough this week, but I'm feeling pretty good right now, so I think that there is some definite value there.

Hope you get out there this week and give it your all.

Until next time: run, run, run.