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.