When sayin' you're gonna go for it just isn't enough.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 Chicago Marathon: Willing to Beg, Steal or Borrow

I have had about 48 hours to think about putting this race report together and I thought of a few different titles, but opted for the one you see above. The runners up were:
  • Chasing the Ghost
  • I Closed My Eyes and She Slipped Away (yes, from Boston's "More than a Feeling")
Those two are much too negative. I went with the one at the top because of that Ray LaMontagne song that I haven't been able to get out of my head for the last 6-8 weeks. And it sums up how bad I wanted to go sub3. Beg? Sure. Steal? Why not? Borrow? You bet!

I make two promises before every race. The first is to my wife Tiffany that I will stop if something is seriously wrong with me. The other is to myself, that I will do everything possible to hit my goal, short of irreparable bodily harm.

I am not going to spend too much time on the lead up to the race. I had an 11 week cycle that was supposed to be 12 weeks long, but I got busy or sick or something in that first week. I honestly don't remember but I see I only ran 4 days that week. The cycle was fine, it included the usual ups and downs. I based the training plan off of Pfitz 12/70, but switched around some days, tried to run zero doubles and backed down mileage in race weeks. I had a crappy 10K where I ran off course that snapped a 13 race PR streak and then PRed at the Batavia Half a couple weeks later. I peaked at 71 miles (hitting that number twice), ran five 20 (or more) milers and tapered for three weeks.

I was feeling pretty beat up throughout the taper and was having some right hamstring issues. I was pretty concerned so I took some time off race week. I took Monday off, ran a 5 miler on Tuesday, took Wednesday and Thursday off and then ran 4+ miles on Friday with my good pal Ron Abramson. We spent the morning together with Isla and Tiffany and then hit the expo. I ran 3.6 miles on Saturday with a 3 minute burst for my Aussie Carbo-load. I felt the hammy in every run and hoped whatever it was wouldn't become a factor on race day. I have no idea where it came from. Anyway, total miles for race week before Sunday was 12.8.

Race Day
I got up and did the usual morning routine. This year, I had the company of Michael Kapellas, one of my older brothers, who was running his first marathon. We did our thing, Tiffany took a few pictures, we left and hopped on the Brown Line.

Top: Michael and me
Bottom: Me rocking the short shorts

After waiting about 10 minutes, we finally took off and eventually reached the area near the start. We walked a few blocks and finally got to the seeded corral gear check tent. I checked a bag and we headed over to the entrance to the seeded corral. It was a disaster. We packed in with hundreds of other runners trying to just get in the corral. We finally made it in just after 7. The race started at 7:30. We both had to use the port-o-john so we get in that line. Luckily we picked a good line and got out of that area by 7:15. I happened to bump into Melissa Fanaro here too. Crazy! We walked up the stretch to get in the corrals, said good bye and good luck at the entrance to his C corral and I took off for the A Corral. I started picking up the pace as I heard someone say they are closing the corrals soon. Oh shit. Now I am jogging to make it through the B checkpoint and into the A corral. I made it and looked down at my watch. Time: 7:20. Heart rate:148. Not a good sign. However, I am letting everything roll off my back. It's my day, damn it.

I look for any familiar face as I am heading up closer to the front and to the left. Just as I am about to resign myself to not seeing or running with anyone I know, I see Jay T., Chad S. (who are both much faster than me) and then the living legend himself, Chad Gruett - who is already shirtless. We then see Chris H. and Nick P., more pals of mine. Chad says he's not going for sub3, but at least talking to him before the gun goes off helps me feel a little better after the clusterf*ck of getting there. Keep in mind this is my 7th consecutive Chicago Marathon and have been in the corrals for 5 or 6 of them. It was never ever even close to this bad. Oh - I take off my cap before the race starts sensing that the extra heat trapped on my head would be detrimental to the cause.

Miles 1-3
6:55, 6:53, 6:58
I'm pretty much on my own here for 1 and 2. I can see Nick just ahead of me and pull even with him in the 3rd mile. Or was it the 2nd? Everything seems to be okay - not good, not bad. I don't feel like I am trying too hard. The hammy is a dull pain. I am having a hard time finding the sweet spot, but really want to make sure I don't go out too fast. I also meet Josh this mile, a really nice guy from Colorado Springs who is also shooting for a sub3. We'd be running next to each other for a good portion of the rest of the race.

Mile 4
See the awesome "Zab for Mayor" support crew at 3.5. It's such a great feeling seeing them. I really think it gives all the runners around me a boost, because I always hear some laughs and see some smiles. I toss my hat to Tiffany and know I'll be seeing them again in about 8 miles. Also, Chad appears in this mile. He says, "Am I running fast or are you running slow?" I said I was in the mid 6:50's from the get go. He says "Uh-oh." I am taking at least one gatorade or water at every station, trying to stay ahead of the game.

Isla and Tiffany

Approaching mile 3.5 and the Mayoral support crew

At Mile 3.5, L to R: Josh(shirtless in the visor), Nick (yellow and white top), me, and Chad (shirtless with the gatorade bottle)

Acknowledging the big group of supporters

Miles 5- 9
6:51, 6:52, 6:53, 6:52, 6:53
There we go. Pretty much right on here. We are about 15-17 seconds off of 3:00 pace, but we're laughing and joking around quite a bit. I take my first Gu at mile 8. Chad falls off somewhere in there and as far as I can tell it's Nick, Josh and me. I left the house with two pace bands - a 3:00 band and a band with straight 6:47's. I knew the 6:47's were out of the question by mile 4. I just wasn't feeling that good. But was I feeling good enough? I manage to rip off the 6:47 band in mile 8. No sense in having that thing weighing me down. I also start dumping water on my head in mile 6. Also Start getting a ton of "Zab" and "Zab for Mayor" yells. The shirt is a hit. As if there was any doubt, right?

This could be the funniest race photo of me ever. I have no idea why I flexed, nor do I know why it appears that I have muscles.

Miles 10-13
6:47, 6:49, 6:46, 6:50
I make a bit of an effort to pick up the pace here. I see my friend Jim at mile 11 and he offers some words of encouragement. I also see the Mayoral support team at 11.5. What a great looking crew! I have said it before and I'll say it again. Seeing my supporters is the highlight of my races.

Here's a nice shot of the marathon going over the Chicago River just past the Merchandise Mart and mile 12.

I wanted to be really close to 1:30 at the half and needed to pick up a few seconds per mile. I lost Nick and as I make the turn west out of the Loop, I get the crowd to make some noise. Josh is right next to me. It's pretty normal to chat with people throughout the race who have the same goal as you. I start making some more conversation with Josh at this point, as it looks like he's in it for the long haul.

Half: 1:30:01. Alright. We're in business. Still not feeling good, but not feeling terrible. I'm thinking I am looking good. My hammy pain goes away somewhere in the last stretch. I also accidentally look at my HR on the Garmin here. I had made it a point to not look at it but I slipped up. The damaging news: 182 - 91% of max. Too high for the halfway point and 11bpm higher than last year at the half. Surely, it's mostly heat related, as the difference in temperature was about 40 degrees. I rationalize that I can still be okay if it goes up 1 beat per mile over the next 10 miles, putting me at 192 at mile 23. Pretty good and logical thinking, eh? I don't look at my HR again.

I didn't realize it at the time, but Josh started about 15 seconds behind me and in the B Corral, so he hits the half under 1:30. And he's working off a 3:15 PR.

I tell people the Chicago Marathon really begins at the halfway point. The first half is a party and there are people everywhere. The second half has some good stretches - namely Chinatown and Pilsen - but combine fatigue along with the lack crowds and the going gets tough. The killer this past Sunday would prove to be the sun and heat beating down on us in the second half.

Miles 14-16
6:48, 6:55, 6:55
Good enough, I suppose. Starting to feel it in mile 16. Take the second Gu at Mile 14. Original plan was to take it at 15, but I am re-thinking everything at this point because I am still not feeling great. Take down the Roctane and motor on. In mile 16, I can see and hear a guy playing "Scotland the Brave" on bagpipes all by himself on the south side of the street. And right next to him is the first time I notice a yellow flag. I think a little part of me died. He may as well have been playing "Taps." Things really start getting tougher. Now I just tell myself, just hold the pace until 25 and I'll figure out how to bring it home. Yes, I was telling myself to hold the pace for 9 more miles. The best part about me telling myself this is that I really believed this was possible. Honestly, I really did. I am downing gatorade and water as much as I can and have continued pouring it over my head quite liberally. Deep down, I am thinking I really have a chance to do this despite A) not feeling I am at my best and B) the frickin' weather. I am basically putting my balls on the table and trying to steal a sub3.

Miles 17-20
6:51, 6:55, 6:43, 6:54
Still holding it. A spectator hands Josh a bottle of water. I ask him for a pull if he's not going to drink it all. He says sure and and the guy on my right also asks for a pull. We play pass the bottle and I give it back to Josh. I had originally planned to take the 3rd Roctane at 21. I opted to take the free Accelgel I grabbed at 19 and save the last Roctane for the 22 or so. It was a hot vanilla mess. Holy Lord. It stung my throat. Gross.

I also pass my friend John King here. He was in front of me for the whole race, but things started going south for him a couple miles prior. I hated seeing that. I tried to pump him up a little bit, but he said his legs were "not good." I think I also told him I was going for it, even if I had to crap myself. Thinking very soundly here, obviously.

Miles 21 and 22

6:55, 6:52
Inching ever so closer to that 25 mile mark, but I am not sure how much longer I can keep at it. At 21, I keep telling myself, "You can do it, just get to 25." I reach the Zab for Mayor crew at 21.5 in Chinatown. I get a boost from them and tell myself, "It's there if you want it. How bad do you want it? Keep digging deep." I refuse to think that I can't get this sub3 even though I know I am running out of gas. I'll give up when my body gives out on me.

Kameron, Jaime, Mike, Uncle Paul and Lynn

Making the turn at Chinatown (Josh is still on my left, in the top picture and on the right in the bottom picture)

Mile 23
Damn. There we go. Gut check time. Josh pulls ahead of me for good. The gut is there, but the legs aren't. Hip flexors are feeling it, as are the quads. Try to dig down and get into the 6's on last time for mile 24, but...

Mile 24
it's not happening. I feel like crap. Contemplating stopping for a walk. I don't give in though and keep my feet moving. I can feel blisters at the base of each big toe on the bottom of my foot. I have never had a blister there before, let alone on both feet.

In my Boston race report, I referenced the point of the race when your goal no longer becomes attainable. It's damage control, it's hard to accept and it's a struggle. And I knew there were tons of people out there tracking me and pulling for me. I didn't get mad. Or sad. I didn't have to fight back tears. I knew this was always a possibility and I now knew I wasn't going to do it, I just wanted it over. And in a moment of weakness and frustration, I tell myself I am done running marathons.

I also find myself behind a woman who has, um, messed herself. And it smells like it too. And it's all over her legs. But it's not stopping her. I do my best to get in front of her but can't. I am smelling the scent of her shit for the better part of the last three miles. I absolutely have no problem with someone crapping themselves. I now know that I'd rather not run behind them.

Miles 25 and 26
8:04, 8:00
Just shoot me. Not much else to say here. Not feeling good at all. Hot and not running very strong. Still dumping and drinking water and gatorade for the duration of the aid stations. Still considering walking. Even though I am drinking 2-3 cups of water at each station, I am feeling like I want more as soon as I depart the end of the aid station. My math skills are terrible at best and I don't care what my time is, I just want it over. And I tell myself a few more times that I am done running marathons.

The last .22
Somewhere at either the last 800 or 400 meters to go (I don't really remember), I try to get the legs going to still snatch a PR. It works - briefly. I hit the gas over the Roosevelt Bridge and and hit the last left turn hard. With about 0.1 to go, I get my first ever race cramp, right where the hamstring goes into the butt in my left leg. I change my stride a bit to go with more of a glide, keeping my left foot much lower to the ground. It subsides the cramp and I use that technique for most of the rest of the way in.

Final time
3:03:36, a PR by 5 seconds. 830th place overall. 1:30:01/1:33:35 split
182 Average Heart Rate - numbers by mile (1-13):
(Miles 14-26)
The last .2 - 197AHR, peaking at 198.

There's no question I went for it and hung on as long as I could. I think given the conditions and that I wasn't ever really feeling it, I gave it a hell of a shot. Balls on the Table? Abso-frickin-lutely. I don't regret this strategy for a second. I honestly didn't care about my time if it wasn't a 2:59:XX or better. The fact that I PRed is gravy. After looking at the numbers, I can see that needing to run 16 marathon-paced miles at a HR of 90% of max or higher is pretty ridiculous. That's basically what I was attempting to do from mile 10 on. For a reference point, my AHR last year during this race was 173.

I can't thank my wife Tiffany enough for all of the awesome things she did for me throughout training as I'd meet up with random friends to go running, run at odd times and I had her full support through the whole thing. It culminated with the amazing "Zab for Mayor" signs, buttons and perhaps best of all, Isla's shirt. I love you, TK.

Me, Tiffany and Isla

Isla and me

I had an amazing support crew out there for me on race day. A big thank you goes out all of you (Tiffany, Isla, Uncle Paul, Christine, Elliot, Elaine, Phil, Geovana, Mike, Lynn, Jaime, Kameron, Jenna, Cadence, the Fanaros) for coming out and supporting both Michael and me. I really appreciate it.

The crew (minus Lynn, the photographer)

Isla, Kameron and Cadence

And a big thanks goes out to my friends both of the running and non-running variety for your support, advice and insight in helping me try to reach my goal. It was great to get to see many of you again. There's never enough time around these race weekends to see everyone. I have made so many running friends over the last couple of years, it really makes for a great time.

I'd also like to thank all of people who tracked me and were watching me try to bring home the sub3. I could feel you rooting me on as the miles ticked by. I also know the text alert system was again a bust for most people. The people at the Chicago Marathon should really try to fix that.

As far as the future, I haven't decided what will be next. I had really hoped this was going to be the sub 3 so I could back it down for a bit. But since it wasn't, I am bouncing a few things off of Tiffany to see what makes the most sense for us...and if it's worth it to keep chasing the sub3 dream. Right now I am 0-2 in my attempts. We shall see. 1-3 is a .333 average and that pretty much puts you on the all-star team in baseball.

A few side notes on the others involved in the race report: Michael finished his first marathon in 4:11, Josh incredibly brought home the bacon with a 2:59, Nick ran a 3:05, Chad finished in 3:09 and John in 3:10. All of them were very impressive efforts and I am very proud of all of them. I could keep listing my friends times but that would take another 3-4 paragraphs.

Thanks for reading.

Here are a few pics from dinner after the marathon. I should note, I was absent from the group shot so you will not see it here. Thanks to the others: Chris, Chris, Stevi and Carl.


Me and Nick

Amy and me

Ron, Matthew and me

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Shirt

Back in 2004, I ran my first marathon. Someone told me to put my name on my shirt so the good people of Chicago could root for me as I ran by them. Since then, I have put something on my shirt for the crowd to respond to in some form or fashion. Some funny, some not so much, some idiotic, some borderline vulgar and of course, the 2008 and 2009 Running for Cru logos. Here's a look back at the shirts of yesterday.

2004 Chicago

Front- Oregon, back - Zabfontaine
The photo is taken from mile 22 or so, chugging my way through Chinatown. Note the Zab headband.

2005 Green Bay

Front- Chicago, Back- Ditka
I had bib number 189. What better way to celebrate former Bear great and number 89 Da Coach, Mike Ditka.

(L to R: Nick, me, Michael)

2005 Chicago
Front - Moustache Love, Back - Zab
I worked a pretty terrible moustache. Not that there is such a thing as a good moustache, even if you prefer to spell it mustache.

Me and Tiffany, with a Jerry Austin sighting in the rear

2005 Las Vegas

Front - RIP Mr. Miyagi, Back - Zab
This may have been the biggest stretch of all the shirts. Miyagi was a Vegas native and died a day or two before the marathon. I'm including two pics because the second shot has always been one of my favorites. Tiffany took it in the last .2 miles of the marathon.

2006 Chicago

Front: Pants Party, Back: C. Monday
Do I really need to explain what "Pants Party" means?

As for Carl Monday, click here and here to find out about him. This shirt also lead to this story on Deadspin about me.

2007 Chicago
Front: Cock of the Walk, Back: G. Frenkle
This marathon sucked. It was damn hot. Damn. Hot. But this shirt was...awesome. For my money, this was one of the best SNL skits ever.

2008 Chicago
Front: Running for Cru logo, Back: CURESMA.ORG
Amazing. If you are newer to this blog or my previous blog, please check this out. To make a long story short, my boss and friend lost his infant baby boy Cru to SMA in September of 2008. In about 4 months, we were able to raise over $33,000 for the Families of SMA organization.

2009 Chicago
Front: Running for Cru logo, Back: Zab
Same set up as 2008. We raised over $9,000 in 2009. And I ran a 3:05 and qualified for Boston. Greatest race of my life.

My friend Chad and me blazing through Chinatown

2010 Boston
Front: Balls on the Table, Back: Zab
Nothing like going for sub 3 at the historic Boston Marathon. Great shirt. Great arm warmers. Great effort, but it wasn't enough as I brought home a 3:03.

The last shot is somewhere around mile 22 if I recall correctly. My mind and legs were both fried at that point.

2010 Chicago

I have a pretty good idea what this year's shirt will say, thanks to the brainstorming power duo of Tiffany and Mary Cantu. It's not set in stone, but it's going to be pretty damn tough to beat. I usually finalize and create the shirt a couple days before the race, so a dark horse candidate could still sneak in. Be sure to check back in regularly over the next two weeks. I'll do my best to get a few more posts up here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back In the Saddle Again

After the shit show that was the Champions 10K two weeks ago, I was more than ready to race again to see where I was and am at this past Sunday. I'd be lying if I said a little doubt hadn't crept into my head. I just wasn't sure if I had gotten much faster since Chicago last October and then Boston this past April.

I've been working as hard and running my tempo runs at a faster pace, but until you actually get a chance to see some results, it's really hard to tell. And my bombing of the 10K (although some of it was out of my control) didn't leave me with a ton of confidence that I was going to smoke the Peapod Batavia Half Marathon.

I really needed to see a better time than when I ran the 1:26:57 in the Tom King Classic back in March. I thought I could run somewhere in the 1:25's. My strategy was to run in the mid 6:30's for mile 1 as there was a decent uphill right at the start. Then I'd go for low 6:30s for 2 and 3, pick up a little time in mile 4 as there was a sharp downhill stretch. Mile 5 was supposed to be in the low 6:30's. I'd give a little time back (6:40ish) in miles 6 and 7 as it was a steady climb of nearly 300 feet through mile 7.25 or so. After that, try to get as close to 6:30 as possible as I hammer the downhills and handle the rollers as best as I could. I also decided to not look at my HR monitor at all and just run. The night before, Tiffany told me she felt really good about my race and may have even mentioned a 1:24.

Michael, Jenna and I headed out west to Batavia just after 5AM and met up with my friend Charlie, who was kind enough to pick up our packets on Saturday. It was somewhere in the 40's at the start of the race, so it couldn't have been much better. I even broke out the argyle arm warmers that I wore in Boston.

LtoR: Charlie, me, Michael before the race

We headed over to the start area shortly after putting our bibs and chips on. Michael and I got in a couple very easy warm-up miles and before you knew it, it was time to start the race. He had to make a quick run to the bathroom so I didn't see him again until he finished. Charlie found me in the corral and we wished each other luck and the horn went off a few seconds after that.

Mile 1: 6:38. Felt okay. I knew the hill right off the bat would be an interesting twist. I was fine with the time as I was trying to just get into a groove and find that sweet spot in the low 6:30's.

Mile 2: 6:38. Alright, I'm having trouble working the pace down to where I want it to be. The thought of a repeat of the Tom King Classic is now going through my head as I could never get out of the 6:38-6:40 range for most of the race. I was trying to find a guy to pace off and think I have one. He's wearing a long sleeve red shirt. I follow him.

Mile 3: 6:29. Nailed it. Feeling good and didn't feel like I had to work too much harder as I was hanging about 5 yards behind the guy in the red shirt. I also realize I need to start having fun when I'm racing. I was too tight and serious and loosened up with some waves and smiles to some of the crowd.

Mile 4: 6:38. Crap. Back at 6:38. I knew the upcoming mile featured a brief downhill screamer that I could try to have carry me through the mile.

Mile 5: 6:17. Giddy up. The downhill was steeper than I thought. I used that momentum for as long as I could. The red-shirted guy has pulled away and I latched onto another guy, this guy a little older and balding.

Mile 6: 6:29. (measured .98) I chat a little bit with the guy as we start the ascent up. We run into a couple other friends of his (one guy and a girl) and we all run part of 6 and all of 7 together. Take a GU here. Originally planned to take it at 5, but there wasn't water until 6.

Mile 7: 7:00 (measured 1.05) Oh boy. I knew it was a little slower as I could definitely feel it, but was really surprised to see the 7:00. I didn't feel gassed at this point, so I stayed positive and was ready to hit a solid mile 8 knowing the uphill climb was over.

Mile 8: 6:22. Nice. The girl drops off and the three of us start spacing out a bit, with the bald guy on my hip. A gentle descent here helps.

Mile 9: 6:28. There we go. Bald guy and the other dude are right with me and we're passing a few other runners.

Mile 10: 6:36. Damn. This featured another approximate 100 foot climb, followed by a 100 foot drop. Starting to feel it just a bit. Take the second GU, as I am starting to sense the water stops are every other mile and taking it at 12 would have been too late. Only took me 10 miles to figure it out. Bald guy passes me and I stay just a few yards behind him.

Mile 11: 6:28. There we go. Starting to try to do some math to see what my time could be. Definitely working harder. Bald guy opens up a 10 yard lead or so.

Mile 12: 6:27. Starting to run out of steam. Pass some guys fishing on the river. One of them is smoking. I yell to him, "Don't smoke right there!" as I run by. Nothing feels better than inhaling some second hand smoke in the 12th mile of a half marathon. Maybe mile 25 of a full?

Mile 13: 6:30. Starting to have a hard time getting the legs to turnover and I'm breathing like a 300 pound man doing a stress test chasing a double cheeseburger on a string that's a foot out of reach. I focus on my breathing most of the mile and hold it together as best as I can.

The last .12: 0:37. See the mile 13 marker and hit the gas, legs be damned. Pass the 3rd place female in this stretch.

Final time: 1:25:44, a new PR by 1:12, and most importantly, a well-executed race on a course much tougher than I am accustomed to racing. I hadn't executed a race plan since Chicago last October, a span of 5 races. I needed to see two things - improvement and execution, and I achieved both. I lost a few too many seconds in the first 4 miles and then again on the long inclined mile 7 to go in the low 1:25's, but I'm not concerned with that. I really find the half marathon to be the most difficult of all distances, as I feel like you're trying to hold lactate threshold pace for 13+ miles. I am not saying a marathon is easy by any stretch, but I always feel like I'm on the verge of disaster in a half. When you blow up in a marathon, you blow up. It's pretty common and has probably happened to everyone that's run a few of them.

Post race

Anyway, I'm feeling good about where I'm at and should be ready to take down sub 3 on October 10th, even if McMillan says I'm not quite there, predicting a 3:00:49. I still have a few more weeks of heavy lifting before I cut back on the miles.

For those interested in HR numbers it was an average of 183 with splits from mile 1 to mile 13.1 as such:

170/174/176/176/180/182/184/185/187/189/190/194/197 and 201, peaking at 202 in the last .1

Michael finished his second half marathon in a time of 1:40:15 (a PR of 3 minutes) and Charlie sand-bagged his way to the finish line in 1:36 (nearly a 5 minute PR). Both of them did an outstanding job and look primed to run great marathons on the 10th.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Streak is Over, Sucker!

It was nice while it lasted. I'm no Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig or even Brett Favre for that matter, but here was the streak:

8/08 - Windrunner 10K - 43:54
9/08 - Chicago Half - 1:38:34
10/8 - Chicago Marathon 3:29:54
11/08 - Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 10K - 41:48
3/09 - Shamrock Shuffle 8K- 33:30
4/09 - Ravenswood Run 5K - 19:09
8/09 - Windrunnner 10K - 39:07
9/09 - Chicago Half - 1:28:25
10/9 - Chicago Marathon - 3:05:14
11/09 - Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 5K - 18:42
3/10 - Tom King Half Marathon - 1:26:56
4/10 - Boston Marathon - 3:03:41
7/10 - Bastille Day 5K - 18:32

That was 13 PRs in a row. Wow. I wanted to get the streak up to 16 with a couple tune-up races before October 10th. Unfortunately, it came to an unceremonious end this past Saturday at the Champions 10K.

I posted a 39:58, 51 seconds off of my PR. I was hoping to come in around 38:15 or so by running a progressive 10K that had me starting at a 6:20 pace and ending at 6:00 even. Here's how it shook down.
Mile 1- 6:20 Perfect. Felt effortless and I had to hold back a bit.
Mile 2- 6:18 Pretty damn close. Still feeling strong.
Mile 3- 6:50 - WTF? Somewhere around mile 2.4, I missed a turn and had to double back. It cost me a tenth of mile and broke my spirits. It was a poorly marked course that was open to the public at the same time the race was going on. I'm pretty sure some people did the same thing I did, but didn't go back and ran a short course.
When I saw the 6:50 at the third mile marker, I couldn't get through it mentally. I tried to stick to the plan, but as I kept doing the math in my head and it wasn't making sense to me to have to work that hard to run a 39:00.
Mile 4 - 6:16. I'm cutting corners on this crappy course, looking for any break I can get. But I'm still doing the math in my head and I am really pissed about the mishap back in mile 3. I basically mentally throw in the towel and run Miles 5 and 6 in 6:31 and 6:32. I see 38:50 on my watch as I hit the 6 mile marker and decide to try to give it all I have to come in under 40 minutes.
I run the last .2 in 1:08 and come across the finish line in 42nd place (out of 435) with my 39:58. My HR got up to a robust 206. What a shit show. My finish in the top 50 did net me a gift card for $45 at a suburban running store. Yippee!

I didn't have my best stuff on Saturday as my HR was through the roof on my warm-up run to the race, but I'm pretty sure I could have muscled out a PR by 20 seconds or so if I hadn't blown the race by missing the turn. Oh well. I can't do anything about it now besides focus on my next race, which is in about a week.

A couple of weeks ago, I was running a strange 18 miler when I ran 10 miles with 8 at GMP and then followed it up with 8 in the jogging stroller with Isla. I was about 2.5 miles from home when I was passing an old folks' living community. It's a pretty well-kept place, is right on the path near my house and sits pretty close to a Panera, Borders and Starbucks. Anyway, as I'm passing the building, I can see there's a woman going the same direction as me pushing some type of cart. It looked like one of those carts people in the city use to haul groceries around, but I can't really see what's in front of her.

As I get closer and closer to her, I start to slow down a bit. There also happen to be some bikers coming towards us moving at a pretty good clip. They pass the old lady a couple seconds before me and wouldn't you know it, the lady has a little dog on a leash that starts chasing after these bikers. I immediately try to bring the stroller to a halt (I was running at about an 8:45 pace) so I don't run over this dog. I stop just short of it and push down hard on the handle to lift the front tire so the dog can run by. The old lady lets out a scream, as if someone just stabbed her in the back.

I am now even with her and am looking her in the eyes. "Are you okay?" I say.

"You almost hit my dog! You need to be more careful," she angrily replies.

I respond, "You need to get better control of your dog, lady. You're lucky I didn't hit him."

Apparently calling her lady was the wrong thing to say because she's now livid.
"You don't talk to me like that, SUCKER!" she shouts.

Whoa. This 70 or 80 something year old bat just called me sucker. Kind of awesome, kind of ridiculous. I haven't heard someone called "sucker" in a long time (circa the 1989 VHS release of "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.") Check that. I have never been called sucker. And I certainly have never heard it uttered by an angry 80 year old woman.

I tell her she needs to pay closer attention to her dog and decide to keep going. At this point, I don't know what's going to happen next and I'm unsure of what this crazy lady might do or say. And I have a frickin' jogging stroller in front of me with my then 18 month old in it. As I am running away, she's still shouting at me saying something about an old lady. I give her a parting shout because I am now a little agitated as there are people in the parking lot watching this lady and me exchange pleasantries.

"Have a great day!" I yell. I am not going to swear at someone's grandma. Well, I probably would have if I had stuck around much longer because this woman was insisting I was wrong.

I haven't seen her since, but I have tried to incorporate "sucker" into my everyday vocabulary. It's harder than you think.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Boston. That's it, Boston.

Where to begin...

I loved Boston. Loved the town, loved the people, I even started loving the Red Sox despite them sucking when we were there. As a Cub fan, there's kind of a bond you can share with Red Sox fans, minus the 2 World Series titles they have picked up in the last 6 years.

Love the Boston Marathon...not so much. That's a little harsh. It's a great event. But it really kicked my ass. Here's how and why -

I know there may be some newer folks reading this so here's a quick recap. I ran a 3:05:18 in Chicago in October of 2009. You can read that epic race report here. It was a race that I'll fondly remember forever. Everything just seemed to click that day. I signed up for Boston shortly there after and had loosely set my sights on going sub 3 in Boston.

I tried to just keep the fitness and ran just enough through the holidays. I prepared to start a 12 week training program at the end of January. I tried to get a nice base of all easy running in the three weeks prior and hit 40,44 and 61 miles the week before training really started. But those following 12 weeks of training were the most inconsistent I've ever had. Here are the miles by week: 51, 30, 60, 65, 70, 58, 36 (Half marathon was this week), 56, 70, 49, 46 and then a pre-race week total of 25. It seemed like things just kept popping up that made it really tough to get the running in that I wanted.

After the 1:26:57 Half in mid-March, I kind of let the sub 3 dream go. But the next couple weeks (after taking it easy the immediate week after), I started making some gains with my heart rate. I saw enough improvement in my heart rate and runs generally became easier, so I figured I was close enough to going sub 3 that I may as well go for it.

The Trip
I am very lucky to have a supportive wife and daughter. We made the trip together and had a great time. Also joining us were my mom, brother Nick and sister-in-law Jaime. I can't thank all of them enough for their love and support of my marathoning. We went to the Red Sox game on Saturday night and just tried to enjoy the city the other days.

I also got to see a bunch of my running friends - some new friends, some old friends and some in between. There really is a special vibe in Boston with all of these runners everywhere. I don't know if it's like that in Chicago or not, but I'd guess no. I have never stayed in any place but my own home for Chicago. There's a certain quaintness about Boston that's hard to put a finger on. You also get that feeling that the Boston Marathon is just as special to the people of Framingham, Hopkinton, Wellesley, Boston etc. as it is to the people actually running it. Most places we would go, people would ask if I was running the marathon. And every one of them would wish me good luck.

I got a couple of runs in Boston in before the race. On Saturday morning I met Steve, Brian, Kevin and Kevin's dad as we ran along the Charles River. It was very cool and something I'll remember. On Sunday, I went out for a short shake-out run and ran through Boston Common. My legs were feeling okay. Not great, not terrible, but I have learned to never put too much weight into those last couple runs.

The Race
Isla did great in Boston. However, she didn't sleep really well the night before. I think I fell asleep at 12:30 or so. Not really ideal, but I usually sleep like crap the night before anyway. I think I slept pretty well for 3-4 hours or so and my alarm was going off before I knew it. I showered and shaved down to a mustache. I looked at myself in the mirror and shook my head. No way. I looked like an asshole. One who liked to give candy to children or possibly even impersonate a cop. I shaved everything off at that point and proceeded to get ready. I said my good byes, grabbed my bag and headed down to the buses. After waiting a bit, we got on and make the long trip out to Hopkinton. Plenty of good, solid conversation on the bus, a lot revolving around race strategy as my bus buddy Chris was also shooting for sub 3. I also ate a half a bagel from my pal James. I think he had like 30 bagels with him.

We finally arrived in the Athletes Village and made our way to the tarps that Ron and Steve had laid out. Everyone joked around a bit, helped each get ready (taping pacebands, writing on arms, taking pictures) and before you knew it, it was go time. I was walking to the bag buses with my buddy Walter, a fellow Chicagoan. He was also shooting for a sub 3 and we were in the same corral. Somehow I lost him and before I knew it I was making the trek to the starting corral all alone. I struck up some conversation with some dude before I finally came up on some people I knew. We shot the breeze for a few and them it's off to Corral 3. I make my way up there and am looking for some familiar faces and come up empty. I settle in and out of nowhere comes John King, wearing his Macho Man sunglasses. We talk for a bit as we're inching closer to the gun going off. I brought along my empty 32 ounce bottle of gatorade in case I'd need to go to the bathroom. I get the urge, ask John for some coverage, he obliges and I take care of business. I get done and about 20 seconds after, some dude comes up to me and asks me if he can use my bottle. You know, the one I just put about 20 ounces of urine in. I said, "Sure, pal, it's all yours." John asks me if I knew the guy and I say, "Nope, do you?" He said no. That wasn't weird at all.

With a few minutes before the race was supposed to start, Mike, another friend from Runner's World comes up. We introduce ourselves (he saw me because I had ZAB on the back of my shirt) and decided to give 2:59 a whirl together. Very nice. I was hoping I could find someone to pal around with for the next 3 hours. Shortly after that, the gun sounds and we're off!

Miles 1-3 7:07, 6:43, 6:45
Everything I had heard was to not take the first mile too fast. Mike and I were on the same page, but we actually went a little too slow. It was pretty congested those first few miles. Things felt pretty easy early on as the downhills helped keep the effort level in check. Mike and I are just getting to know each other a bit here and keeping each other loose. I'm hearing "Balls" and "Balls on the Table" in some nice New England accents from the get go and it couldn't be any more awesome. This continues the whole way.

Miles 4-6 6:50, 6:55, 6:41
More of the same. It's not feeling super easy, but it's not feeling tough. I was feeling pretty good with where I was at. Mike was wearing a Greg Maclin pace band (accounting for the terrain) and we were pretty close to that throughout. Our Garmins seemed to be a little off as sometimes his would be reading in the 6:30's and mine would be in the 6:50's. We'd just take the middle and go with it. Note to self: Boston's water and Gatorade stops are much shorter than Chicago's. Sometimes there were only a few people handing out Gatorade and I'd end up with water when I wanted Gatorade.

Miles 7-9 6:51, 6:50, 6:52
There we go. Settling into a great pace. Took my first Gu Roctane at mile 8. I'm feeling pretty good at this point, but my heart rate is climbing a little higher than I'd like. I hit an AHR of 171 at mile 8, about 5 miles earlier than I was hoping to hit the 170 mark. I tried not to think about it too much and from this point forward, I think I will not look at my HR during marathons until the last couple miles. Mike and I are still having solid conversation and we're bumping into a few other guys hoping to hit 2:59's. I am not sure why, but they were asking us if we were on pace.

Miles 10-12 6:50, 6:51, 6:41
Great miles, but I start to feel like I am working too hard. AHR now in the mid 170's. If I was a little smarter, I may have started to back it down a touch, knowing the Newton hills are looming over me like an albatross. But, I don't. I think I can power through it and use my mental toughness to hang on.

Miles 13-15 6:53, 6:46, 6:57
Still hanging on, holding pretty steady. AHR was 178, 179, 179. That's just about 90% of max with 11+ miles still to go. Oh boy. Here comes a downhill mile before the hills. I take my second Gu at 15.

Miles 16-18 6:37, 7:04, 7:00
This actually wasn't too bad - time wise, anyway. I saw my support team just before 17 and it was a huge boost. I can't really say how awesome it is to see 5 people there rooting me on in Boston. This was actually my first marathon that wasn't in Chicago since December of 2005. It's definitely a different feeling not being familiar with every mile, where the mile markers are, etc. I knew my legs were pretty well trashed after the downhill on 16 followed by the first hill. But, I am thinking, you know what? If I can get through 21, I still have a shot. I'm telling myself, "Just...get...through...the...hills."

Mike (in the green) and me

Miles 19-20 6:43, 7:03
Solid. The downhill-ish 19th mile was a nice break. Still feeling it in a bad way, but pushing on. Just trying to mentally get through 21 and over Heartbreak so I can run again. But 20 was a struggle. AHR was a 189, 94.5% of max.

Mile 21 7:31
I lose Mike in this mile. I can feel him pulling away and my legs aren't working like I want them to. I can see him looking over his shoulder for me and then yells, "Zab!" I yell back, "Go!" He gives me a fist pump and pulls away. I finally crest Heartbreak, see my split and know how my legs feel and know I'm toast. I'm pretty much out of gas. Damn. It's been a long time since I have felt like this in a race. I'm trying to mentally pull myself together because I'm a mess physically. My legs are shot. The point in a race where your goal slips through your fingers is tough to comes to terms with. In the back of my head, I am still thinking I'll get my legs back, I just need a little bit of time. AHR was still at 189. Also took my last Gu here.

Mile 22 7:07
Wow! Not bad, but I'm running on fumes. And I am having fueling issues. I am starving. I'm grabbing anything and everything spectators are handing out to runners, namely water bottles and slices of oranges. Those oranges tasted amazing.

Miles 23-24 7:36, 7:44,
I'm pretty sure I saw both wheels fall off and roll right by me here. I'm still grabbing all kinds of oranges and water bottles from the crowd. I'm just focusing on finishing and looking over my shoulder, hoping to see some of my pals that were shooting for sub3. I never saw them. Oh, and I'm getting passed like a son of a bitch. The crowd is cheering me on, but I'm just mustering thumbs up to them. In the back of my head, I'm thinking, come on, you can still PR and give the finger to those people who told you that you don't PR in Boston, let alone your first Boston. I'm also thinking how much I hate marathons and I'll never run this course again because I just got my ass kicked like it has never been kicked before. And I still have 2.2 miles to go.

Mile 25-25.2-26.2 7:38, 1:35, 7:19
I get a boost in between 25 and 26 near Fenway. I get a second wind and decide to embrace the crowd and I get them cheering like a bunch of drunks for me as I'm raising my arms up and down. I'm yelling, "Come on, get up!"And they are loving my shirt. I'm giving out high fives and feel like I am running freely for about a quarter of a mile. Oh, I see the one mile to go mark and I retardedly hit the lap button. Yep, the 0.2 comes after mile 25 in my race today. Anyway, I'm pretty much giving it all I have left (which is not much) and realize I'll be coming in with a 3:03 something. The crowd is really awesome here. I make the last couple turns and try to position myself for a good finish line photo. Seriously, that's what I am thinking about. I raise my arms, hit the mat with a 3:03:41, a PR by 1:37. Thank you, God. It's over. Quick side note: the ironic thing is there is no finish line photo of me on marathonfoto. Unbelievable.

I am actually moving pretty well after I cross the line, unlike most of the people around me. I go over to the spot where they're handing out medals and I make eye contact with one of the volunteers. She tells me to come on "ovah." In her Boston accent, she says to me, "I have been waiting for you. Great job out there. You earned this medal." I am not sure why, but I almost started crying when she said that. Again, the kindness of the volunteers shining through. I told her thanks and I appreciated it very much as she put the medal around my neck. She said some more nice things and I went on my way through the corral.

I am walking faster than everyone, grab my Mylar blanket, bag of not-so goodies and finally make it to the bag pick-up. I grab it and the the end of the finishing corral is right in front of our hotel and I finally see Tiffany, Isla and my mom. I give them all hugs and kisses and they were all so happy and proud of me. They also seemed to be concerned that I was going to be upset that I didn't go sub 3. The truth was that I wasn't at all. I was really happy to see them and I was just exhausted - and the 2010 Boston Marathon was officially in the books.

Post-race Thoughts
I am really proud of my time and I really did the best I could. I was really on the fringe of going sub 3 and if I knew then what I know now about the course, I would have called myself slightly crazy by going for it. My training cycle was far from ideal and I definitely made a few mistakes from fueling (how could I forget my breakfast staple- Peanut Butter! and the later start messed with my eating schedule) to a lack of hill training (not that I can truly simulate that here in Chicago). But if I would have run it a little more conservatively in the first half, I maybe still could have ended up with a 3:01 or 3:02. In my mind, who cares? I went for the 2:59 and ended up with a 3:03. I'll put my balls on the table every time when that scenario comes up.

Garmin total: 26.43 miles, 3:03:42, 6:57 pace, 169 AHR (although my HR battery seemingly crapped out on me the last few miles, so I am guessing that number is closer to 175.) Splits of 1:29:41/1:34:00.

Thoughts on the Rest of the trip
  • I'm really lucky to have such a supportive and loving wife and family. There weren't many other families from out of town that came to support their runners.
  • Boston cabbies don't like it when you pay with your credit card.
  • On the flight back home, we sat next to a guy that bandited the marathon. He claims to have taken the green line(D) out to mile 16 and cabbed it out to Hopkinton. He showed up 2 hours late and proceeded to still run it in 5 hours from when he started. The best part is that he was really impressed with my 3:03. He seemed to think I would have no problem setting a new "PBR" in Chicago in the fall. Yes, that's right a "PBR." The hybrid of a personal best and personal record is apparently a Pabst Blue Ribbon, so PBR me ASAP.
  • The "T" is pretty solid, although it does get a little crowded at times.
  • If you like Dunkin' Donuts, you'll love Boston.
  • Congrats to Mike for bringing home a 2:59. Great job and thanks for keeping me company for 20 miles.
  • Boston is kind of like a smaller, cleaner version of Chicago...with awesome accents. Everyone was really nice. Tiffany and I definitely want to go back for a visit sometime.
  • Here's a link to our family blog that features more photos from our trip.
That's about it. Thanks for reading and for your athletic support.