Saturday, July 20, 2013

Canceled the NYC Marathon 2013 ...

I just canceled my entry into the NYC Marathon 2013.

This is the first time I’ve canceled a marathon.  I was a couple weeks behind in official training, and the training I’ve done thus far has been minimal.  My extremely busy work schedule was the biggest reason why I wasn’t able to train.  I’ve been working since May about 5 to nearly 7 days a week. Getting up regularly before 5am, 4am, even once before 3am and working long, unpredictable hours on different productions led to tiredness and left me unmotivated to get out for runs, even when I had the time to do so.  I’d lost most of my fitness since my 3:38 Boston Marathon in Spring 2013, so I was training from the beginning and the mountain of training ahead of me in light of lots of unpredictable work seemed insurmountable.

I realized that not-training for the marathon would mean I wouldn’t feel the building psychic pressure to get in greater and greater miles of running during the week, especially during a very hot NYC summer.  I would be saner, happier, and likely healthier without marathon training.  If I canceled the marathon, I could still run, but I wouldn’t be trying to achieve an ambitious goal in an unforgiving schedule that rarely concedes to the time and energy demands of marathon training.

I had been trying to take some time off from work this week to reset my health a bit, but I ended up working five days this week in high-paying jobs that were not in my interests to refuse.  It was in this period that I got the idea to cancel the marathon as a step to get healthier.  Immediately it felt like a good decision.  I’d have to eat about $225, but I’d get guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon 2014 should I want to do it.

I gave the decision a few days, and moments ago I canceled the marathon for this year.

Fortunately I waited to sign up for the Philly and Atlantic City Marathons.  I was tempted to run both of them this year.  But before signing up for either, I remembered from last year when I ran these two marathons with the NYC Replacement Marathon between them — all in four weeks’ time — that I was really irritable when it came to doing all three, and that there were real expenses when it came to choosing to do so.  Also concerned I might end up injured training this year, I held back on signing up for these other marathons.  And it’s a good thing I didn’t, now that I know I won’t be doing NYC or any other marathon.

My next steps are to see how I bring a different kind of fitness back to my life.  I’m looking at bringing a new balance in my life if I can.



Monday, April 15, 2013

Well, That Happened! ...

A Race!  Boston Marathon 2013

8:19s  |  26.2 miles  |  42~48°F

Today I ran the 2013 Boston Marathon.  I completed it in 3:37:59 (8:19s).  Definitely not one of my faster marathons, but at least I got to finish!

I’m actually writing this entry on Sunday, April 21, 2013, and backdating it.  I’ve just gotten around to writing it, after a tumultuous week of news surrounding the tragic events that happened about an hour and ten minutes after I finished the marathon.  So some of the information in this entry may seem futuristic relative to the publication date.

Official Stats per BAA.org

Bib No. 5653 (Wave 1, Corral 6)

Splits:

5k 10k 15k 20k Half 25k 30k 35k 40k
0:22:45 0:46:22 1:09:30 1:33:41 1:38:46 1:58:10 2:25:12 2:53:22 3:24:45

 

Finish:

Pace Projected Time Official Time Overall Gender Division
0:08:19 3:37:59 3:37:59 10638 7608 3242

 

Unofficial Stats per my Garmin 610

The day started off with relatively ideal conditions.  It was mostly cloudy but the sun was peeking out.  It was cool but not too cold, with a forecast for the race to get up to about 56 degrees — optimal for me.  I was at the runner’s village with Elizabeth Corkum, who was also running it, set to pace her friend and running teammate Cip.  They weren’t able to rendezvous at the village because of poor cell phone signal and low cell battery, but eventually found themselves in the corral.  Elizabeth’s more remarkable stories of the day are here: Ode to Boston | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

I wasn’t feeling all that great this morning, which is generally a good thing for me in terms of racing because I tend to do fairly well when I feel bad in the morning.  It was mostly a less than comfortable feeling in my digestive system but nothing that really terrified me.  I wasn’t sure how I’d race today.  I had not really put much strategy into the race this time, relying mostly on my 2011 Boston Marathon experience when I ran 3:15:16 (7:27s).  I did not think I would achieve that level of performance this year; instead, I estimated I’d finish around a 3:25.

I ended up in Corral 6 in the first wave, which started at 10am.  My impromptu strategy this time was to do a bit of research: I recalled how fast these first miles leaving Hopkinton could be, even without effort, so I decided I would run slowly out of the gate to see what that might do for my later effort.  This included slapping kids’ hands on the right side of the course, which I thought would help to slow me down a bit.  In my first miles I was mostly in the mid-7:10s without much effort, with a couple of slowdowns when I took a bathroom break during the 4th mile and stopped to loosen my laces in the 5th mile after having an intensifying tingling sensation in my left foot.  The sensation didn’t relent so I decided I’d just see if I could deal with it while running and see if it would go away.  It eventually did — I think sometime during the 10th or 11th mile.  (I wondered if hydrating myself had any impact in the tingling going away because the loosened laces didn’t seem to help!)

My pace started to slow around the 8th mile, going into 7:20s territory and then quickly moving up past 7:30s up to an 8:00 for my 15th mile.  During this time, I ticked off one of my things to do : get a kiss from a Wellesley girl or two.  I found a spot where I thought I could get kissed on both cheeks by two girls.  I got one kiss and quickly left.  It was only after then that I realized that it was more the point to kiss a Wellesley girl than by kissed by one.  Darn!  Well, maybe I’ll try next time.

Once I ran 16 miles, I saw the game change for me.  In my most recent training runs, I’d been able to get my 16-mile runs down to close to two hours, and here I was hitting that just about on the button, just a few seconds to maybe a minute slower than that pace.  But from this point I realized that’s when things will get really tough with this race (what with the Newton Hills just ahead, plus the challenging last 10K), so I wasn’t expecting myself to hold to that pace, especially since my recent training had tapered too soon quite accidentally from being trapped in an unrelenting work schedule.  Sure enough, it was after this point that my splits changed from sub-8:00s to ultra-8:00s, ultra-9:00s, and even ultra-10:00s!  (There was one notable exception on the fast and exhilarating downhill off of Heartbreak Hill when I ran a 7:53.)

As far as the Newton Hills, the first one seemed the longest.  The next two are a bit of a blur, with the downhills of these three seeming quite long.  If I’d had more energy for these hills, I might have tried to shave off some time on these downhills.  The fourth and final hill, Heartbreak Hill, indeed starts at the traffic light with a little bump, and concludes at a curve where I think there’s another traffic light.  I was crawling along but didn’t stop.  It was really fun getting some energy back on the long downhill out of Heartbreak Hill.

The Citgo sign is a welcome sight implying that you’re really close to the finish.  You see it from a bit back then you don’t … and then you do.  This second time you see it is more promising.  However, there is a highway overpass of a very steep grade at this point in the race (steep to me at this point, that is!), so that’s to be remembered.  From 2011, I remembered how hard all of the remaining hills were to me but this time they were a little less difficult except for this one.  I was really drained for a lot of this 2013 race at the end.  Crawling along in the ultra-9:00s and 10:00s, I wanted to stop but kept myself motivated enough to put one foot in front of the other and by reminding myself I’d only be running about 18-20 minutes more.

Elizabeth’s boyfriend Chris was near the end of the course, so that was also a motivator for me.  He didn’t know exactly where he’d be so that was going to be a bit of a challenge for me to pick him out, so I didn’t lose too much energy trying to find him.  He was going to be positioned near the underpass inside the last mile — this underpass below Massachusetts Avenue was across the street from our hotel, The Eliot.  In the end, I missed Chris, and I continued on toward the Hereford turn and then to Boylston.

On Boylston, I picked up my pace just a bit, with my strategy being to sprint only once I hit the last cross-street, Exeter.  I came upon an older man running in front of me whose shirt claimed he was 60 or so, and not wanting him to beat me, I made sure to pick up the pace enough to get by him.  When I hit Exeter, I turned on the gas, and I ended up robo-sprinting through the finish line.

Since it was so helpful in 2011, I did the same this year and held the hands of some volunteers while I walked the intersection to get water.  I picked up water, Gatorade, a heatsheet, medal, and other nourishment, all moaning a bit with my calves really aching.  Once I accumulated all of my stuff, I decided to rest my legs a bit by stepping each one at a time on the lower rail of a security gate, with a volunteer making sure I was okay.  I was, though I was aching.  I then made my way over to the buses to get my bag, then off to the family reunion area.  At some point I called Chris to triangulate with him.  I decided to head over to his general area on Massachusetts and Commonwealth.

The route wasn’t as direct as it could be because of the road closures, so I hacked my way a bit in our hotel’s general direction.  I ended up being near the finish so I turned down I believe Exeter and ended up very near the finish line.  I was walking along the south part of the race, right in front of Lord & Taylor.  It was in front of Lord & Taylor that I encountered a disturbing mass of people, pretty much sealed in like sardines with almost no room to move.  The sidewalk was packed with about 3-6 rows of people watching, with only about two rows of people getting by near the wall of the store — and they were hardly moving.  We would take babysteps every few seconds.  I had two thoughts around this time: 1) if a bomb went off here it wouldn’t be pretty, and 2) why are there not police officers regulating the flow of people here?  It was definitely unsafe.  Where I was ended up being I believe diagonal from each of the bombs that were to go off minutes later.

Eventually I freed myself from the pedestrian traffic and made my way along Boylston.  Lots of “Congratulations!” were uttered to me as I’d walked from the family reunion area, and they continued even to this point.  I reached Hereford and all this time I’d been looking to see if I’d see Elizabeth and Cip finishing, but given what Chris had said about their time I figured it would still be a while.  I thought about turning down the west side of Hereford but there looked to be so many people, I didn’t really want to endure navigating another mass of people.  So I kept going along Boylston until I got to Massachusetts Ave., and I saw Chris waiting for me at Commonwealth.

We talked outside the hotel there at the corner for a bit.  Chris said Elizabeth and Cip had just passed by, and sure enough soon after we got simultaneous text messages alerting us that they’d finished.  It must have been three minutes later that we heard an enormous boom.  I only remember one boom, but Chris remembered two.  I looked to the police officers there who were regulating traffic and they seemed to look at each other, but we all carried on a moment later as if that-was-that.  While it did sound like an explosion, I didn’t know the city very well so I figured it must have been loud sound on a construction site or something.  It sounded like a dump truck hitting a pothole, which is a very loud sound.  However, it sounded about ten times louder than that.

Chris went off to grab some lunch and I went up to the hotel room.  Chris had left the TV on and I was watching The Talk on CBS and nourishing myself when suddenly breaking news came out.  That sound I’d heard indeed was an explosion.  In fact, it was at the marathon.  Early reports were of limbs.  It didn’t sit well.  I first thought it must have been some tragic explosion of an oxygen tank at a medical tent.  It wasn’t long before I realized it was something else.

Eventually I got a call from Elizabeth from Cip’s phone.  Elizabeth hadn’t been able to reach Chris and since her cell phone battery was dead she had to use her friend’s phone.  She said she had just finished about three minutes prior and had to run away.  She was definitely in a state of excitation and I remained calm and asked her to remain calm.  I figured it was all over — of course I didn’t know but I didn’t doubt that.  She explained that the route back to our hotel was cut off now, so she would go to Cip’s hotel near Boston Common (the other side of the finish line from us) where she could also recharge her phone.  Chris, who’d just gotten Elizabeth a burrito, was with me before he decided he’d see if he could walk over to her hotel to get her.  He did, and meanwhile I got out messages that I was safe to those I knew who knew I was running.  I did that nearly the entire time Chris was gone, when he came back with Elizabeth.

It is about there that my story ends.  The only eerie thing for me is that I was on Boylston minutes before the explosions, but I just don’t recall how long before.  I’m guessing it was about ten minutes before.  The next eerie thing — I described as “chilling” — happened to me two days later when news got out that they had footage of one of the bombers laying down a backpack … footage taken from Lord & Taylor.  When I heard Lord & Taylor mentioned, it hit me a bit since I’d been there.  I remembered how packed it was, how some people were standing inside the glass entrance presumably out of the crowds, and how empty the store seemed despite being, I believe, open.

I ended up fixating on the news, staying in bed all day Friday from about 6:50am until the capture of the second suspect late that night.  I was interested in the news.  I don’t think I was traumatized by the events, but the last two nights (Friday and Saturday) I’ve dreamt of bombings and even a bombing at a race.  I think that must be more from the impression of the news than the actual events, but I can’t be sure.  I’ve had some other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder but I don’t really think I exhibit the condition, just more a confluence of things in my life coming together around the same time as this.  We’ll have to see how this continues to unfold.

So that was much of my 2013 Boston Marathon experience.  Wild.  Marathoners in the last five months have been through a lot.  From the cancellation of the 2012 NYC Marathon and the bad blood toward marathoners Hurricane Sandy sponsored, to the bombings of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the support its marathoners got, such an apolitical activity as marathoning seems to have become political.  I’m hoping it’s only a blip in the history of marathoning and that marathoning can get back to its normalcy.  Before the bombings, marathoning had long had a symbolic value, but after these bombings its symbolic value has increased manifold.

To see photographs from my 2013 Boston Marathon, click here.

To read an article from the Times Ledger in which I was interviewed about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, click here.

For a second article appearing in the Times Ledger, along with some photographs I provided, click here.

 

 



Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Race!  Philadelphia Marathon 2012

A Charming Third Time ...

7:29s  |  26.2 miles  |  39~47°F

This morning I ran the Philadelphia Marathon 2012. It was my fourth running of this decidedly fun race. I completed the marathon in 3:16:02 (7:29s). While not a PR in this fast, flat course, the race was the end of my feat to run three marathons in four weeks. I did it!

Here are my unofficial results per my Garmin:

I really wasn’t sure what would happen in today’s race. Four weeks ago I ran the Atlantic City Marathon in 3:15:14, a time about 10 minutes faster than I had expected. Two weeks ago, I ran the NYC Replacement Marathon in 3:38 — it was actually an ultramarathon of 26.6 miles. Between then and today’s race, I did only two runs — a half-marathon training run and a 10k training run. Based on some prior history of running NYC then Philly with little training between them, I thought there was a good chance that my Philly would end up really slow. I surprised myself.

With the hope of pulling off a 3:25, I relaxed in the beginning of the race. I only had to run 7:49s to pull off that goal, so when I shot out of the gate running around a 6:40-6:50 without much effort, I was a bit surprised and knew I needed to calm down. I remembered seeing some portajohns Saturday and the course ran past them, so I hopped off the course and into a portable toilet. I lost maybe 30-45 seconds, managing a 7:28 first mile according to Garmin (I thought it was a 7:49??). Now without the urge to pee, I was comfortable and running, without pushing myself to go too fast. I remembered the course fairly well and knew there were places I could speed up, but I decided not to.

Instead, I thought I’d hold back until the hill around Mile 8 to turn it on and work. Just before then, I’d been stalking a City Coach runner, whom I’d picked out because of his singlet. Elizabeth trains with the City Coach team so their shirts are distinctive to me. I don’t know the team but I eventually caught him and introduced myself as a friend of Elizabeth’s. His name was Jeff. We chatted a bit (he was running with a guy named Jerry, so we became “Ben and Jerry”!) and I learned he was aiming for a 3:08. I knew I wasn’t going to achieve that today but he dismissed my statement as a lack of confidence. (It wasn’t a lack of confidence; it was a realistic estimate based on my training and history … a 3:08 would have been close to my PR and I wasn’t in that kind of shape.) I ran with Jeff and Jerry before charging up the hill around Mile 8, and I weathered it really well. Around Mile 10 or 11 (near the gel station) Jeff showed up in front of me out of nowhere! I caught up to him then went past him on one of my favorite downhills of the course. It wasn’t until near the half-marathon mark that Jeff passed me then I caught him and we talked as we tried to help Elizabeth (who was in town to watch her boyfriend also race) make ourselves more visible. She wasn’t where I had expected but Jeff and I stayed running together until eventually Elizabeth emerged near the cool old stone underpass on Kelly Drive, cheering us both on.

I ran with Jeff for a bit more. We were doing sub-7:00s at this point, which made me really happy yet I didn’t know how long I’d be able to sustain it. Another guy joined us, too, given our clip. However, inside the 17th mile, something changed for me. I was right there with Jeff when I decided it would be a good time to get some gel in me. Reaching into my pocket meant that I slowed just enough for Jeff to pull in front of me, and as I wrestled a bit with getting the gel into my mouth, Jeff was 90 feet or more ahead of me. My body wasn’t responding as much now to my impulses to catch Jeff, and sure enough I managed a whopping 7:22 in this mile. Whoa! I went from running about a 7:00 to a 7:22! I figured here was the shift in my race and maybe that I’d hit the wall.

Sure enough, my body was starting to slow in the 17th mile. My times started to climb but I knew I could get all the way out to Manayunk. I was pretty confident I could get out of Manayunk. I was even confident I could finish this race, though I wasn’t sure how much I would end up slowing. I remembered that the going out on Kelly Drive is long. Did it feel as long going back toward the finish line? I couldn’t remember but I figured it would feel long. Fortunately, it wasn’t that bad.

With about 4 miles to go, I had a caffeinated gel. In fact, I had two — one 2x-caffeine Tangerine PowerGel and one raspberry Clif Shot of unknown caffeine level. I’ve avoided running with much of any caffeine since a hot summer run left me with a racing heart, which made me feel really weird and knocked me out of the training run. However, I was curious if I’d get a needed boost to the finish line with the caffeine. I didn’t have the heart palpitations, yet I did have some increase in speed. Or rather, when I wanted to turn it on a bit more and get to the finish line, my body output some increase in speed.

With 2 miles to go, I talked to a guy named John. John told me a secret about his race (he was running with a buddy’s number, I believe), and he said that people were calling him by the name on his bib rather than his name. We connected a bit and encouraged each other in keeping it going to the finish. Eventually I pulled ahead of him and he wished me well. And then the speed really started to pick up for me.

A girl in fluorescent running clothes rivaled me. She sped up much too soon for the finish, which is really hard to gauge in this race. I think I caught her, only to have her eventually pull ahead of me. I was really starting to charge to find the finish, with tears welling up in my eyes in a fit of emotion. Eventually I saw the 26-mile marker, which I wasn’t confident I’d see. I knew that after seeing that, it’s about 2 minutes until the finish. I found the finish and charged ahead. And then I finished. 3:16:02 — just shy of running a 3:15. If I didn’t have the pee break, I might have run in the 3:15 range, but honestly, the having-to-pee would have drained my concentration, and that early break from running actually may have helped me out a bit.

After the race, I saw Elizabeth’s boyfriend Chris, who pulled off his first ever sub-4:00 marathon, running about a 3:57. I saw Elizabeth, too, but then I was on my way back to my hotel. I noticed a limp in my right knee had started to develop, most likely delayed onset inflammation of some sort. At worst I feared it was a cartilage tear but I’m thinking that’s not it for now, and that the inflammation will go down soon enough. My guess right now is that it’s a bit of inflammation of the IT band since the pain is a bit on the lateral (“outside”) part of the knee.

I slept a lot of the train ride back to NYC. I’m pretty happy with my accomplishment of three marathons in four weeks, even if I didn’t do them as quickly as I had originally hoped. Training for them was extremely tough for me this year. I didn’t have the luck this year of consistent stand-in gigs, so I was hacking together a work schedule among different productions, meaning my sleep was erratic and my runs couldn’t always work out. Many times I just didn’t run, too defeated by the stress of early calltimes and extremely early risings, and too wiped out at the end of the day to do anything about it. This goal makes me long a bit more for training for a single marathon again, though quite honestly I need a bit of a break from running after this experience. Running was enjoyable to an extent, but I would do whatever I could at times to delay my going for a run. I think it was my body rebelling against the goals I’d set forth for myself. I also had a book come out in this time, and the erratic nature of promoting it also wore on me, as did general life pursuits. This huge running goal is largely behind me now, thank goodness.

And I did it!