Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More on Boston

Detailed Recap

The mood was light as Chris, Robert, Jason, Erik, and I stood in the corral shortly before the start of the race. We all took turns peeing in bottles, on the ground, on ourselves, etc in the moments before the race. You have to do what you have to do. We watched as the elite men moved in front of us and saw Ryan Hall come out full of energy. He gave me a nod as he came by and looked ready to have some fun.

The gun went off and we were on our way. Jason was pacing Robert and I through the first 10 miles (at least that was the plan). Robert and I would be hitting 6:20 or so on the first few miles and then drop it down to 6:05-6:15 pace. We managed to do this pretty well. Chris and Erik were with us for the first few miles and then took a more conservative approach.

There was a strong headwind going against us the entire way, but it wasn't unbearable. It surely slowed us down, but we've all run into worse. I was reminded of New York as Robert repeatedly urged me to slow down a little as we were slightly faster than we should have been. He's superb at that. We'd made it through the sharp downhills without pushing too hard or putting too much strain on our muscles. This is key to be able to race up the Newton Hills.

Around mile 8 or 9 we came upon a photo opportunity and we moved side to side (Robert is cut out of this photo, but you can see Jason and I). It was right at this moment that things went wrong for me. My heart began to race very quickly. Not from the effort, but from something else. I'm not sure what it was. Adrenaline, an irregular beat, or most likely, caffeine. Almost immediately I couldn't keep up with Jason and Robert. I was short of breath and slowing quickly.

You might think this was a penalty for going out too fast (doesn't Robert look fast int eh photo on the left?), but the truth is that I was going at an easy pace. If I was going to pay a price, it would have been later in the run. Not to sound cocky, but running 6:10 pace for 9 miles at sea level is very easy for me. I knew something strange was going on.

I continued on trying to hold my pace but miles were beginning to tick by at 6:50 and 7:10. I wasn't even halfway done yet. I averaged 6:32 miles at the NYC marathon, so I knew something was wrong. It was at this time that I lost it mentally. Runners were streaming by me on both sides. Chris and Erik came by with concerned looks as they could tell I was struggling. Chris offered me assistance but I told him to keep going (They both went on to 2:44 and 2:48 finishing times, btw). If I'd been calmer I think I may have been able to hop on with Chris and follow his very steady and strong pace.

Finally at mile 15 as I was falling farther off pace I decided to quit. I walked to the side and felt completely awful. I looked back for Ashley or other friends who I might join. I began walking slowly forward for a few minutes that seemed like an eternity. I was so distraught with my thoughts. I couldn't imagine having to tell people how badly the race went. I didn't want to face co-workers and try to explain what happened. Imagining the next few days in Boston with friends seemed awful. I couldn't be a downer, but I knew I wouldn't feel good about. When I could see the next mile marker I looked at my watch and decided I had been walking for 4 minutes.

I don't really remember why, but I began running again. I quickly felt good and began to pass a lot of the people who had driven by me. Physically I was back to normal, but mentally I was wasted. I couldn't believe things had fallen apart and I didn't know why. With my goals ow out of reach it was difficult to push myself through the hard parts. Still, with the break from walking and being slower than my usual pace I was blowing past people in the Newton Hills and especially Heartbreak Hill.

I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 53 minutes. I felt awful, and anxious to put the day behind me. I don't like to pout about it, but it was frustrating to feel so fit, yet run so much slower than I had hoped. On the bright side, I had run 2 minutes faster than the '08 Boston in harder conditions and while taking a large walking break. This proved to me that I was indeed fit, but I just hadn't executed well. I suppose I have to accept that this happens once in a while as I've had a good string of PR breaking marathons and you can't expect that every time. It is hard to accept though, when you know you've put in way more work towards training than ever before.

Looking back on it a week later, I'm most disappointed with the way I handled the setbacks mentally. I think if I could have paused earlier and walked briskly to recover and set my sights on 2:50 instead of 2:44:59 it would have been possible. When I saw that goal slipping away I let it make me too distraught to refocus on a goal that was still attainable. But, I'll live with myself, and the good news is that a lot of people close to me had great days.

Robert cruised away with a great finish in 2:44. I think he could have done even better had I stayed on pace to help break the wind with him. But, it was a great day for him to be proud of. Ashley broke her PR with a 3:18. (Ashley and Robert are to my left in the yellow shirt photo taken by Zach Bouzan-Kaloustian) She did this on a much tougher course and in harder conditions than she ran in Chicago. Her hard work paid off and it was great to spend time with her after her accomplishment.


My trip home was not easy. After a flight delay my car broke down on the 405 during LA's rush hour. After a night in LA (crashing at JG's near USC, THANKS!) my car was fixed and I made it home after missing two days of work.

I felt the desire to jump back into a marathon right away. I still wanted a good time to show off as a reward for my training. But, I met with Andrew and after discussing things I realized this wouldn't be best for my training for the long term. We're focusing on 12 weeks of high speed work and low mileage to train for a 5k. After that phase I'll work on extending that speed to the marathon distance and I'll push towards a December marathon. CIM, Vegas, Fresno perhaps... I haven't picked on yet.

Great marathoners almost always start at shorter distances improving their speed and then slowly extending the length they can carry that. Not having run in high school or college I came at it the exact opposite way. I jumped immediately into the marathon focusing on endurance but giving speed very little attention. I'm hoping for big gains in the next two months.

One thing I know for sure, is that the runs here will be absolutely beautiful. Many of the mountainous dirt paths have finally thawed and are now clear to run. There is so much joy in following these trails that I can't really describe.

Thanks again for all of the support leading up to Boston and all of the encouragement and congratulations. Here's to continued training and enjoyment of running for all of my readers. I'll be writing soon about Electirc Boogaloo and our upcoming race at the MC200. And... a very special calendar. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Boston Marathon '09 in short

I will be writing a full recap of my trip to Boston in the next few days. I need a few more days to decompress and talk things over before I do.

I had a great time seeing so many friends, but my race left a lot to be desired. I ran a 2:53. Robert(pictured with me comparing chest hair), on the other hand, killed it, running a 2:44. More to come soon!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Last Workout - Video of Round Valley

The Last Workout

Four runs remain before I race in the '09 Boston Marathon. This morning marked the last "speed" workout in preparation for the race. It was a bit of a challenge to get in as I had to work from 7:45 am until 5:15 pm.

Luckily for me, my roommate agreed to get up early with me to give some company. James and I headed out the door at 5:30 to go to Antelope Valley (7200 ft)where we did a 9 mile run with 4X1mile repeat right at 6 minute pace (2:30 recovery, so pretty easy per taper). We were greeted with a nasty wind and hail, but as the sun came up the weather calmed, and by 7am it was a beautiful day.

I fly to Boston early Friday morning adn can't wait to feel the enjoyment of sea level running. If you have any interest in receiving updates via e-mail or text message during the race, let me know and I can set you up.

Ryan Hall at Round Valley

I've posted more videos about Boston in the last few days than I intended, but I can't resist showing this one because of the great views of Round Valley and Mt. Tom. It is such a great place to run in the winter as the video shows.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

8 Days


Great Video from Flotrack!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Carlsbad 5000 Recap, Fam, 11 Days to Boston

A New 5k PR

My experience at the Carlsbad 5000 turned out to be very positive, but it didn't get off to a great start. I made the 7 hour drive from Mammoth to North San Diego County early Saturday morning and checked into my Motel 6. The weather was beautiful and I made my way to the course to do an easy shakeout run and course preview.

When I stepped out of my car I noticed an intense pain in my right knee. Something had developed while making the drive. I was able to do my run and check out the beach, but after I wrapped things up the pain increased greatly. When I got back to my hotel I couldn't climb the stairs and I experienced the pain all night while sleeping. I knew it couldn't be too serious since nothing had happened to cause it (so I hoped) but when I got up the next morning I could barely walk.

Carlsbad is different than a lot of 5ks in the fact that it splits its age groups into separate heats. The elites even have their own race at the end of the event. This makes for a festive atmosphere as there are races all morning. The energy seems to build as the morning moves on. My race did not start until 11:30 AM which is much later than normal. This worked to my advantage as it gave me plenty of time to try and get rid of the pain.

I began my warm up much earlier than normal, but I couldn't run for 15 seconds without experiencing too much pain. I took some medicine and hoped the pain would go away. After an hour it was still bad, but I noticed a difference so I doubled the dosage. I was able to warm up just in time. I moved into the corral at 11:28 and moved near to the start line. I didn't want to stand still long and have my knee tighten up again.

However, this didn't work out for me. Just before the gun went off it was announced that my race was being delayed for 8 minutes because an Amtrak train would be crossing the course. I did my best to dance around and stay loose. My mind was a nervous wreck as I had to wait. I knew I was about race on a fast course, and in a 5k there's hardly any time to work into a groove.

Finally the race did get underway and I immediately felt badly. The start is downhill for 400m and then works its way back up before taking a 90 degree left hand turn. Several people passes me including young boys who had to be 13 or younger. I couldn't seem to find a rhythm and felt slow. I finally approached the first mile marker and had some idea of how I was doing. To my surprise it was still in the 4 minute range when I could make out the time that it showed. I passed the first mile in 5:12 pace. I had been aiming for 5:20.

At this point I totally relaxed and found a rhythm. This pace felt very easy, and I knew I could hold it and push a bit at the end. Shortly after the 1 mile mark the course does a 180 hairpin turn and runs along the Pacific Ocean. At this point a lot of people who had started too fast were moving backwards and I began picking them off one by one. I passed the 2nd mile marker in 5:26 and knew I had a lot left for the final 1.1 miles.

During an uphill chunk of the third mile I picked off an entire pack of runners (maybe 7) and was grateful for all of the hill work I'd done in Mammoth. While the hill was certainly small, it did slow many people at that point in the race. Coming around the last corner to see the finish line I had two tenths of a mile remaining. A few people sprinted to get by my side. In the final 100 meters I turned on what I had left and kept them behind while managing to get two more runners (one at the very last step, you can see me just ahead of him in the pictures, and the other a few meters out, pictured looking to his left as I come by).

I finished in 16:42 and 40th place. While this is certainly nothing to write home about in the grand scheme of elite running, its a really good time compared to what I ran last year at this time. This was a PR by 31 seconds. If nothing else, this was a great confidence booster going into Boston to know that I'm in good shape and to know that I can run at a pace much faster than my marathon goal pace and feel comfortable. I know I shouldn't feel comfortable while racing a 5k, but my training hasn't been geared towards that short of a distance. I wrapped up the day by laying on the beach for a few hours before driving home. Its a lot easier to relax after a PR.

An Elite Perspective

Watching the men's and women's elite race was a lot of fun. Anthony Famiglietti came within four seconds of the American record and looked really strong. He wrote an interesting recap on falling short of his goal to break the record here.

I also shot some video of the race and set it to Richard Buckner. However, the audio was taken off by YouTube because of copywrite laws. The video quality is pretty comprimised as well.

The last hard workouts before Boston, and I got laid off!

Yesterday I got to work at 7:45 am and then took a break at 2:30pm. Mammoth has been graced with a nasty winter storm the last few days. High winds... snow... etc. I headed out in the conditions to repeat the brutal hill run I posted about a few weeks ago. I managed to run it a few minutes faster this time around and then headed back to work until 8pm. This was the final intense workout before I begin to pull back and rest for the race. I do still have a some mile repeats and tempo runs to complete, but the total mileage is beginning to drop.

The challenge has been getting the workouts in around my work schedule. I'm working 8 10 hour days in a row. I won't complain though. I need the work and the money as I was informed today that I will be laid off at the end of April. Does anyone know of a job openning?

In one final note about Boston, there was a GREAT interview with Ryan Hall on Runnersworld.com today. He mentions several runs in the Mammoth area that I'm familiar with. He also had this quote about the winter we've had in Mammoth this year.

All of my preparation has been done at Mammoth Lakes. We were totally blessed, although the snowboard crowd might have a different word for it, to have a super mellow winter this year. It was really tame compared to years past. Last year, I was only up here for a couple weeks and I felt like I was constantly thinking to myself "we can train anywhere in the world this winter, why are we training in this winter tundra?." Don't get me wrong, Mammoth is the most beautiful place in the world, but the winter is not usually so kind. This winter was beautiful though. I only had to run on a treadmill a couple of times and I didn't miss any workouts. In years past, we would have to drive down to 5,000 ft for most of our workouts and some of our easy days which made training seem really long. This year we stayed high for almost everything. I just kept waiting for the winter to show its wrath but it really never did. If there is any winter that I should be able to run fast off of, it is the winter of '09. Big Bear is usually much more mellow in the winter compared to Mammoth but there are also only a couple of spots to run on the dirt and even less then that that are flat compared to Mammoth, where we have more dirt roads with flat options if we want it. We haven't been able to get as high as 9,000 feet up here in Mammoth because to do so you have to be cross country skiing but we do most of our long runs and tempos above 7,000 feet. I can't wait to get into Boston. The first week at sea level after being at altitude for an extended amount of time is euphoric.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Carlsbad 5000

I'm heading to San Diego this weekend for what some call the "World's Fastest 5k". I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm stoked to be at the ocean once again. I hope to have good news on my return. The field is very competitive, and luckily I'll be able to watch the elite race as the event is actually staged in several heats, with the elites in their very own races.

Boston Training

My mind is still focused on Boston and I found this video of American hopeful Kara Goucher to be quite exciting. Ashley will be excited to see Alberto Salazar making an appearance. She loved him as an assistant coach in high school.