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 -


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.


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. :)


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.


  1. Well worth the wait! Excellent post and excellent race. You ran smart and finished strong! It's amazing what a difference running with someone can be at this distance. You may feel that a BQ is something that you can't imagine now, but I have no doubt that somewhere down the line, you and I will be lining up in Hopkinton together! Way to go buddy!

  2. What an incredible race report - I am sitting here crying. You have overcome so much and are continuing to move forward. You have your sights set on Kona 2011 - me Bermuda 2013 - hope you will join us in beautiful Bermuda. Yes it is an incredible running community and I'm so blessed to know you and share in your journey!

  3. Incredible race report brother! Brought tears to my eyes! I was at work doing all I could tweeting/cheering/keeping-up with you. I can't tell you how proud I was to see you finished under 4:30 as I knew you had PR'd by at least 1:30:00! So glad I've gotten to know you and I'm looking forward to a future of running together!

  4. Thanks!

    @Luau - No doubt. BQ is doable. Just gonna take some time, and speed work.

    @Mary - Not sure about either of the island trips to be honest, but I'm sure setting my sights on continuing to move forward. Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration to so many.

    @Doug - Thanks man. I knew you'd be psyched about the sub-4:30. I'll see you tomorrow in the Groton Town Forest!

  5. wow! that is such an amazing story!! way to go!

  6. Excellent report, Adam. I really admire you for all that you've accomplished. Yours is an amazing story and I love that it continues. . . can't wait to read the next 'chapter'. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! You're a real inspiration.