Archive for December, 2011

Just two weeks remain in 2011.  Hard to believe just how fast the last year has flown by.

Every one of my friends who have children warned me that in the blink of an eye Landry would transform from a tiny little infant who I stayed home from work last December to care for as Dawn went back to work to a walking, talking little person.  The time was precious, I needed to pay close attention and make the most of it.

For the most part I have tried my best to do just that.  Spend special time with Dawn and Landry, drink in all of the milestones and try not to “miss anything” major.  Rolling over, standing up, first steps, first words, swim lessons, pretending to be an elephant, now watching her run for the first time through the house – I’ve been there for all of it and it has been everything I could have ever asked for.  Better in fact, as I truly had no idea just how special this first 15 months would be with Landry.

Dawn and I can hardly wait for what is next.

This morning I had an 18 miler on the schedule, wrapping up our first week of Boston Training with a 58 mile run week.  Needless to say we are off to a strong start, most of my previous training plans did not have me reaching a long run of 18 miles until week 10.  I did not reach 58 total miles until week number 13 on the way to the starting line in New York.

Exiting New York healthy after a huge performance there has really allowed us to springboard ahead and ratchet things up to another level for Boston.  Barring injury, illness or a physical set-back – we should be prepared like we have never been before for the Marathon in April.  Already I am envisioning the ride to Hopkinton on the bus early that morning, surrounded by exceptional marathoners knowing that with very few exceptions, nobody is better prepared to race to the limits of their capabilities than I am. 

We will be there to go all in and leave a permanent mark on the storied Boston Marathon Course.  A day very similar to New York where years later we will be able to look back on that day and know that we were the best we have ever been.

Sunday’s long run gave me a great deal of time to reflect on the past year, the running/training goals I had set prior to New Year’s Eve 2011 and it made me wonder just how I was doing in achieving my goals put to paper close to 12 months earlier.

My goals for the previous year:

Goals for 2011

1.     Run more than 2,011 miles in the coming year.

        (CHECK – I have run 2,035 miles in 2011)

2.     Be running healthy and injury free the entire year.

        (MISS – I had minor knee inflammation that cost me 4 weeks of running this year)

3.     Re-qualify for the Boston Marathon.

        (CHECK – 3:15:01 Austin in February, 3:08:09 New York in November)

4.     Set New PR’s for the Mile, 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon and Marathon.

        (5:07, 18:12, 37:30, 1:23:55, 3:08:09 – CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK)

5.     Run the ING NYC Marathon in November and PR.

        (CHECK – Marathon PR by 6:52)

6.     Complete a 5K with Landry (in her jogging stroller).

        (MISS – Hopefully we’ll rectify this on New Year’s Day)

7.     Incorporate track workouts in my training this year.

        (MISS – Hill repeats remained in lieu of track work)

8.     Take my first swim lessons.

        (CHECK – Started swim lessons in April)

9.     Complete a sprint triathlon.

        (CHECK – Debut triathlon in July 1:13:20)

10.  Continue to honor Dom and raise money for his children’s education.

        (CHECK – we raised additional funds throughout the year for Sierra and Nic0)

Looking back 2011 has been a pretty successful year when it comes to goal achievement.  Priorities always change over time – that is something that all of us need to deal with.  But I believe that the exercise of setting goals is a good one to go through each year, all the while knowing that you may have some “misses” on the list, such as adding track work was for me this year.

I realized that my speed was still improving without it, and I could continue my hill work without risking injury on the track.  It was a win-win to more or less cross that goal off of my list without having completed it.

The others were all goals that we worked hard to achieve, only falling short by spending a few weeks on the injured list last March and the stars not aligning for Landry and I to do our first race together.  That last goal is one that hopefully we can cross off of our to-do lists during the Resolution Run on New Year’s Day.

Goals for 2012?  My list has been forming in my head over the past few months.  A PR in Boston is sure to be on the list as will the completion of our first Half-Ironman this October.  As for the rest, I guess you’ll have to stop back on New Year’s Eve to find out.

There will be 10 of them, a couple will “scare me” just a bit – as after all.  If your goals don’t scare you a little, you aren’t dreaming big enough.

Thursday kicked off the final “tweak”that we will be making to our marathon training for Boston in April, trying to strengthen an area that reared its head as a weakness in 2010.  Preparing for the opening downhill 14 miles from Hopkinton to Newton.

Boston Marathon - Course Elevation

It is this opening stretch of miles, slightly past the half-way point of the marathon that does more damage to the marathoner’s legs than the well-known “Newton Hills” a series of 4 climbs culminating at Heartbreak Hill at mile 21.

The facts are after having run Boston that the Newton Hills in and of themselves are not particularly long, not particularly steep and not particularly difficult.

It is more about “when” they are than it is about “what” they are.

They come after an hour and a half of the marathoner “holding back” over the downhill first half of the race.  Putting on the brakes, making sure they do not “go out too fast”, but what these careful marathoners are doing is destroying those quadricept muscles mile after mile.  Breaking them down so that when it is finally time to start “racing” this marathon and climbing to the top of the course in Chestnut Hill the legs don’t have anything left.

I have never felt so helpless on a race course as I did in Boston back in 2010.

That race was good for me however as it forced me to make some changes in my training.  In fact, I’ve changed virtually everything about how I prepare for the marathon and I have taken almost 10 minutes off of my marathon PR in the process.

But this year for Boston I know better.  I know that how I prepared for Austin last February or New York this past November is not the recipe for success in Boston on April 16th.  I need to continue to work hard building my strength, stamina and endurance – I need to continue to strengthen my climbing muscles to remain strong on the uphills – but I need more than anything to prepare for that first 14 miles.

I need to harden those quadricept muscles running a ton of downhill miles, sometimes at great intensity to make myself virtually bullet-proof.

Today marked the start of that journey as we ran our first workout of Downhill Repeats.

Typically on Thursday morning I run a 3-mile warm-up and then jog to the bottom of my hill repeat hill.  I make a turn at the bottom, hit my watch and take off to the top of the hill at 5K race effort.  The hill is 3/10 of a mile long and rises 65 feet.

At the top of the hill I hit my watch to mark that split and start a slow recovery jog back down to the bottom.  I start with 8 repeats during the first week, add one repeat a week up to 10 and then run 10 repeats every Thursday until the taper for the marathon.

For Boston every third Thursday or once every three weeks we will be flipping the workout around so that I jog slowly to the top of the hill and run DOWNHILL at 5K effort, hit my watch at the bottom and then make a slow (8:30-8:40 pace) jog back to the top of the hill to start again.

Thursday’s workout was the first week of “Downs” so we started at 8 repeats or repetitions.

Repeat 1:  1:29

Repeat 2:  1:31

Repeat 3:  1:32

Repeat 4:  1:32

Repeat 5:  1:32

Repeat 6:  1:30

Repeat 7:  1:31

Repeat 8:  1:30

1:30 = 5:15/mile pace.

I closed the workout with a mile home in 6:26.  FAST.

In the coming weeks it will be interesting to see how “fast” our downhill splits become.  Today I was running downhill directly into a 15-18 mph wind, which was certainly slowing us down quite a bit.

The goal is not to really “get faster” however, even though running those repeats at a high intensity will build those muscles exactly as we intend.  But running with perfect downhill form is really what I am after.  I want to be able to lock-in and run identical splits as I go through the workout, hitting the same times as my legs grow more and more tired.

I am focusing on form in this workout, tucking my pelvis underneath me, leaning forward slightly – not backward, and letting gravity pull me down the hill.

I want to land on my midfoot, not my heel – and make sure I am not “braking” as I go down the slope.  All to ensure that I am running with an easy, repeatable stride that will not overly tax those quadricept muscles.

Workout number one went about as good as I could have hoped, that 6:26 final mile showed that after all that downhill running my legs were still strong and able to fire.  Exactly what I will need them to do when we pass Wellesley College, reach the first of the Newton Hills and start pulling in runners ahead of us.

When we kick over the final hill at mile 21 on the Boston College campus and 5 downhill miles remain, that is where we are going to make our move. 

Those final 5 miles will be ours.  Simply put, I will own them.

That course owned me back in 2010.  Well you know what they say about payback.

It’s a bitch.  Bring it on Boston, you are going DOWN.

18 weeks until the Boston Marathon.

For the last two years all I have been able to think about when it comes to the marathon was this opportunity to return to Boston and take care of some unfinished business from 2010.  I have had more time to think about this race than any other event since I took up this crazy sport of ours, and now it has finally arrived.

I was out with some non-runner friends recently who have an intellectual curiosity about the marathon as they have followed me from out of shape, overweight, couch potato to 6-time marathoner, 2-time Boston Qualifier and budding triathlete.  All after age 40.

Some of it is just that, curiosity.  I think there is some level of wondering whether or not they could “be that guy too” – but that is a post for another day.  For them it is just a matter of really wanting it and then taking those first tentative strides towards something new and a little bit scary.  Everyone has that in them somewhere, finding it is the hard part.

The topic turned to how I felt about other marathoners who weren’t as fast as I am – those marathoners who finish in 5 hours, 6 hours, 7 hours – do I view them really as “runners”.

The answer that I gave them I think surprised them a bit – but it is something that I have felt strongly about since my very first attempt at 26.2 miles in Philly back in 2006.

It is not the actual racing of a marathon that impresses me – all kinds of things can happen on race day to impact results.  Weather, injury, having an off-day … each one of those instances can turn a Personal Best performance into something far, far less than that.

It is the training for the marathon that impresses me.  The hard work, preparation, dedication, sacrifice and flat-out stubbornness that it takes to make it to the starting line that to me defines what a marathoner really is.

5 hours, 4 hours, 3 hours – there is always going to be a runner out there that can go faster than you can.  The question really is can you go faster than yourself?  Can you run the very best race that YOU are capable of.  Really put it out there, prepare for greatness and then give it all you have on race day?  Can you do that?  Do you have that will and belief inside of you?

Do you have what it takes to really pour everything that you have into your training and then go out on race day and leave it all out there?

There is no one-size fits all time requirement for greatness.  Only you can set those parameters.  Only you know what you sacrificed to be in the position to go all in and take a big risk.  That is the way you get big rewards.

So with Boston 18-weeks off our “official” marathon training begins once again – possibly for the final time.  I hate to say “never”, because that just isn’t a word that resides in the vocabulary of an endurance athlete or marathoner.  Never = Can’t and that just doesn’t work.

But Boston is going to mark the end of this 5-year period of training and racing for me.  It will be my final big race as a member of the 40-44 year old Age group and after recovering from the race we will be jumping in literally with both feet to a full Triathlon racing slate through spring, summer and fall culminating (I hope) with our first half-ironman at the Longhorn 70.3 in October.

From there?  I’m not entirely sure.  I will sit back after Longhorn with a half-dozen triathlons under my belt and try to discern where our future and our passion is.  Do I want to continue to pursue the Triathlon in a serious way, focus on run-only events or continue trying to straddle the fence and compete in both?  Tough to tell right now, but this sport has proven to me time and time again that it will be clear to me when the time to make the decision arrives exactly what I need to do next.

Landry and Dawn will have a lot to say about it as well as life is certainly going to get a bit more complicated in the next year or so as Landry has her own adventures and discoveries.

So what will the training look like this time?  Well, here’s the plan:

2012 Boston Marathon Training Plan

Like the last two training cycles leading up to Austin last February and New York City this November, there is a healthy balance of run days, rest days and cross training days.

We will be racing a bit (Green dates) with one team-ultra 200 mile race from Miami to the Florida Keys in January, followed by three half-marathons and the Capital of TX 10K.  The only other race that may pop up would be a “resolution run” on New Year’s Day if we decide to run a small local 5K for some speed work.

We will be running some “Doubles” on Tuesdays for the next month to help prepare for our three legs in less than 24 hours from Miami to the Keys.

So far I really like the added run and mileage, so we may keep the Tuesday doubles up until the final taper for Boston – but for now, this is the plan.

The other major change is the addition of running “downhill” hill repeats every third Thursday to prepare for the treacherous downhill start of the Boston Marathon from Hopkinton to Newton.  A closer look at our mileage shows a jump in total miles and the number of 20-22 mile runs which will reach 7 during this training cycle.

Closer look at mileage

As the cycle moves along I’m sure that more mileage will be added here and there over the course of the journey.  On the way to New York we added close to 9% more mileage over 18 weeks.  Better to schedule conservatively in my view and add if and when you feel strong than to over-commit and feel like you are “cutting corners” when you need to dial things back a bit to stay healthy.

Tuesday morning this week kicks it all off – it is going to be one helluva ride.  On to Boston.

 

Landry vs. Santa

Posted: December 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

For everyone that has been along for the ride since the beginning of Run for Dom you know that just two weeks after Dom lost his battle with cancer, Dawn and I were blessed with little Landry.

Last year at Christmas Landry was only 4 months old.  She slept a lot, nursed a lot, pooped a lot and that was really the extent of her Holiday Season.

Well this year it is a whole different ballgame.  Her first “real”Christmas filled with Presents, wrapping paper, a Christmas Tree and even a chance to correspond with the big guy in the North Pole and send her first Santa letter.

Dear Santa ....

This is also her first opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what she wants for Christmas.

Her first opportunity came at the Lights of Love 5K and Kids 1K.

Ah, maybe not.

Hoping that was just pre-race jitters before her first 1K Race we tried again the next day at Landry’s School for Breakfast with Santa.

Nope.  Don’t think so.

How about just one more try peanut?  A big smile for Mommy and Daddy?

Ugh.

Hopefully Landry will feel a little bit better about the Easter Bunny this spring.  As for Christmas 2011.  I now have the pictures that I am going to show the boy that is fool enough to show up to the house to take Landry on her first date.

That and my gun collection.

Happy Holidays everyone!

I was born in 1967 which is relatively unremarkable.

The one thing that birth year did for me however was make me a High School student in the 1980’s.

It was a decade filled with movies that are still watched over and over by new generations of teenagers time and time again.  This was the age of the “coming of age” type films – All the right moves, the Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Making the Grade (lesser known, but pretty awesome) – but one movie in particular stuck with me more than most.

It wasn’t because it had a superior plot, a big budget or more star-power.  But it resonates with the athlete who has big dreams, perhaps even foolish ones and is resigned to chase them down on his own.  That pretty much defines the competitive distance runner.

Vision Quest.

If you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a while, you might want to tee it up on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

It is the story of Louden Swain, Louden Swain has just turned eighteen, this being the year he’s going to make his mark in life, or as his friend Kuch calls it, his vision quest.  His chosen goal is to wrestle and beat Brian Shute, known as the best high school freestyle wrestler in Washington state.  Shute is undefeated in his high school career.  The issue is that Louden has to drop two weight classes to do so.  This quest is much to the chagrin of Louden’s coach and teammates as although Louden is an inexperienced wrestler, he is naturally gifted and focused and was primed to win the state championship in his own weight class.

Just making the weight to get on the mat with Shute is a huge challenge for Louden.  Once that is accomplished by the narrowest of margins he goes toe to toe with Shute.

There is a love interest and plot twist of course as this is after all a 1980’s teen movie that debuted my senior year of high school (1985), Madonna makes her film debut as a night club singer – but the story is about Louden and his Vision Quest.

Monday morning we will be 18 weeks from the 116th running of the Boston Marathon.

Boston is my Brian Shute.

For me to run Boston as a qualifier is pretty special.  My 3:08:09 qualifying time means that regardless of age, I am heading to Boston with a time that is lower than the “fastest” time required of the youngest male runners (18-34) of 3:10:00 for the 2012 race.  That time will drop to 3:05:00 for the 18-34 year old group for 2013.

For me my required qualifying time for this year was 3:20:00.  Pretty much destroyed that one.

For 2013 when I move up in age group to the 45-49 year old crowd my time gets adjusted to 3:25:00 under the new rules.  That really isn’t even a goal on my radar right now.  That’s the thing about goal setting, you really need to do that yourself.

Someone on the outside looking in trying to determine your dreams, desires, capabilities and willingness to “work” is bound to either assign an arbitrary goal for you that is either too easy or unattainable.  Rarely can they do a better job than you can of knowing what defines “excellence” for you.

For me, qualifying to return to the Boston Marathon this year was my battle against making weight and getting on the mat with Shute.

All I did was earn the chance to board that bus to Hopkinton on April 16th and take my 2nd shot at Boston.  Really, I haven’t done anything yet.

What happens from there will be determined over these next 18 weeks.  It will be about how hard I am willing to work, how far I am willing to put it out there during training and how smart I can prepare and stay healthy.

I have thought about the Boston Marathon at least one time each and every day since I came through the finishing chute on April 16, 2010 with my tail between my legs.  Boston beat me, but it didn’t break me.  I gave great effort that day, I battled every step for 26.2 miles, but I know in my heart that there is more inside of me.

I can do better.  I will do better.

There is a part near the end of the movie where Louden’s friend Kuch (in a rare appearance by Michael Schoeffling who played Jake Ryan in 16 candles) looks at Louden before the match with Shute and says, “no matter what happens – things will never be the same.”

Exactly right.  No matter what happens in Boston on April 16th, things will never be the same.

 

I worked on a College Campus back in the mid-1990’s.  The President of the school once said to me as we were preparing for a meeting, “you know Joe, if we only do what we’ve already done then will only get what we’ve already got.”

To know Judge Sanders was to love him.  He was a southern gentleman who always had a quip or colloquialism to fit the situation.  But this one stuck with me like no other.  The more popular version of this comment goes something like, “insanity defined is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.”

The point being in these two cases that if you want to change an outcome you have to change your approach.  Not too earth-shattering a revelation, but one that I have been kicking around ever since the closing miles of the New York City marathon.  In fact after all 6 marathons I have run I have tried to take something from the experience and put that knowledge into the development of my next training cycle.

I believe that if I do not keep trying to push a bit harder and refine my approach I am running a race that I cannot win.

I am 44 years old, not 24.  When we get to Boston we will be 5 months older than we were in New York, 14 months older than we were at Austin in 2011.  Our marathon time may be dropping at each event, but the other clock – Father Time – is ticking louder and louder.  Unfortunately that clock is moving in the wrong direction.

So in this intermediate period between recovery from New York which is now complete and our Boston Marathon Training Cycle that begins this coming Monday (12-12), I looked at my ramp up to New York and looked for areas where we could refine our approach.  Not all marathons are the same.  The course topography makes a difference.  Not only what kind of hills the course features plays a role, but when those hills arrive changes the marathon and makes it unique.

I was never concerned about any downhill sections when it came to the New York City Marathon – I was only concerned with the uphill climbs over the 5 bridges.

In Boston Heartbreak Hill gets all the hype and attention, but that is actually the 4th and final climb up the “Newton Hills”.  Each one of them takes a bite out of the marathoner.

But more treacherous than the climbing in Boston which our hill-repeat workouts will address during training will be how I handle the 14 mile downhill start from Hopkinton to Boston.  It is this stretch of the course that so thoroughly crushed my quadricept muscles in 2010 it didn’t matter how ready I was for the climb from Newton to Chestnut Hill.  My race was over at the Newton Fire Station.  I simply had nothing left.

One adjustment will be the addition of “downhill” hill repeats for Boston, where I will run down our local hill here 10X with a recovery jog back up to the top every third Thursday with traditional “uphill” hill repeats on the other two weeks.  That will allow for a strengthening of those quadricept muscles and make me a more efficient downhill runner.  I will also be adding the golf course to our long run course which will add a ton of short explosive uphill and downhill sections to my long runs.

More elevation change, more hills, more downhill running – all to be ready for 3 hours of the toughest racing I will have ever attempted.

One other change, which is actually quite significant will be the addition of running “doubles” during this training cycle.  Essentially adding a 6th run to my weekly training schedule, but not sacrificing one of my two rest days.

I know that I need those days off on Monday and Friday to stay healthy.  A training injury and all bets are off in Boston.  In the past I’ve realized that I can get away with running 6X a week occasionally – but I cannot sustain it without the onset of injury.  Some runners can run every day, week after week.  I just am not one of those runners.

So to add some mileage to my already moderately high 55-65 mpw average during marathon training, I will be running twice on Tuesdays.

A relaxed pace run in the morning (6 miles +/-) followed by a more strenuous, longer workout in the late afternoon, (8-9 miles) roughly 12 hours later.  Then on Wednesday morning an easy recovery run from 9-12 miles.

This will allow me to log 23-27 miles in a 24 hour period of time from Tuesday-Wednesday, where in the past we had run 16-19.  I will be adding some easy miles to help our endurance (think the final 4 miles of the marathon), while keeping the up-tempo run on Tuesday that has become a staple of our training.

Tuesday-Wednesday workouts looked like this:

Tuesday a.m. – 6 miles – 46:22 – 7:44 pace

Tuesday p.m. – 8.3 miles – 56:49 – 6:51 pace

Wednesday a.m. – 9 miles – 1:12:52 – 8:11 pace

By sticking with this formula over the course of 18 weeks we will be able to add 140~ miles to our training cycle and push us up to that 70 mpw threshold.  A place we have never been, all while maintaining our two rest days for cross training/recovery.

Like anything new, especially for a distance runner I will need to carefully monitor this change to our training after the first few weeks once our body and our muscles adjust to the new training load.  Some tweaks and changes may be necessary if I can not hit my speed workouts or if I am more fatigued than normal at the end of my long runs.

The goal of course is to show up in Hopkinton, MA on April 16th 100% healthy, ready to run the race of our life.

Weather permitting we are looking to blow through our marathon PR as if it was standing still.  3:08:09 was plenty good for New York.

But if we only do what we’ve always done, we’ll only get what we’ve already got.

And that ain’t going to cut it in Boston.

Friday night marked our final race of 2011 – the Lights of Love 5K benefitting the Ronald McDonald House here in Austin. 

It’s a funny thing when you lay out all of your plans for races and events at the start of the year, you tend to focus on the “big” events and not so much the smaller ones.  In 2011 I had the Livestrong Austin Marathon in February, my first Triathlon in July and the New York City Marathon in November as the marquee events for the year. 

Those events were in fact tremendous experiences – but they were only a small part of our 22-race calendar for 2011.

Many races, like Lights of Love, Jaylie.org, Denver Half-Marathon, the SI Labs Marathon Relay, The Austin Triathlon all were events that just kind of “happened” during the course of the year.  When I look back on that list, they include some of my favorite memories from 2011.  They were all truly gifts and I was fortunate to be able to participate in them.

That said, the Lights of Love race takes all of that to another level.  When Dawn told me that our friends Bea and Jay were going to be organizing a team to race and raise money as part of “Caleb’s Army”– it was something that we both knew that we just had to do.  Caleb since he was born has gone through more struggles than many of us will go through in our lives – and he’s not even one yet.

Bea and Landry's (Boy)Friend Caleb

Bea, Jay and their three children made their way to Cincinnati for Caleb’s latest surgeries and stayed in the Ronald McDonald house there during his treatment and recovery.  The Ronald McDonald house made a tremendous difference in their lives and made a very difficult time for them a little less difficult.  That to me is what philanthropy and “help” really is about.

It is basically how this entire Run for Dom got started and why today we have almost 100,000 visitors to the blog.  It’s how more than $37,000 was raised to benefit Dom’s wife Val and their children Sierra and Nico and now it was why we would be racing for Caleb.  To help raise awareness, support close friends who needed us and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of others.

There was a race to be run of course, but I couldn’t help but think we had won just by showing up.  After seeing the group of more than 40 people in their Caleb’s Army Shirts it became very clear to me what my goals for the race were.  Go out, run hard and enjoy yourself.  Tonight really doesn’t have anything to do with you.  It’s all about little Caleb.

Pre-Race:  Landry and I picked up Dawn at her office and made the way over to the race location at the Mueller Hanger by the Ronald McDonald House and Dell Children’s Hospital.  It was wet, rainy and windy – but it really didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.  I had raced in far, far worse.

We got Landry situated in her jogging stroller as she and Dawn would be participating in the Kids 1K.  Landry’s first race.  We had hoped that Landry would walk some or most of it, but the wet streets, large crowd, cold weather and wind were exactly what her “Bob”stroller was for.  So Landry would ride along as Dawn pushed her with the group from Team Caleb.

Landry ready to rock and roll

We met up with Bea, Jay and their kids under the hangar as the group assembled.  We chatted a bit about the race and took a lot of photos with the group.  Landry even got a chance to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him about her Christmas list … that didn’t go exactly as we had planned.

Get me off! Get me off!

As the triple stroller that Bea uses to push the kids was readied with a large sign and lights, I snuck out for a quick 1.5 mile warm-up.  I had no idea where the course went, if it was flat or hilly, what my race strategy would be, I was just going to run.  So much for pre-race planning.

Caleb's Army Sign

Kids K:  Dawn and Landry got situated with the rest of Caleb’s Army and took off on their 1K race.  About a half-mile in length they were off with the large group went out on the course, made their turn back toward home and came back through the chute in just a little over 7 minutes.  Pretty impressive for a 15 month old.

Landry’s full race report will be up later this week.  You definitely won’t want to miss that.

There were about 15 minutes to go before the 5K when they returned, I gave them both a congratulatory hug and kiss and went out to finish up my warm-up.  I was the only runner out on the course and realized just how dark it had gotten.  The light on my GPS watch has been “out” for well over a year now.  There was no way I was going to be able to see my watch or my timing splits on the course.

Just like the NYC Marathon, we’d be running this one blind again.  No worries, we’ll just lock it in and run our 5K slightly “uncomfortable” pace for the first two miles, start to push over mile three and kick to the end.  That’s the thing about the 5K it’s not rocket science.  Go as hard as you can as long as you can, then hang on to the finish.

The Start:  I was chatting with Felix who I have seen at a few local events over the past couple of years about the course and his running of late.  Seemed like he and I would be running a similar pace.  There were a few younger, fast runners in the starting corral and a few other older runners who had “the look”– as in, I’m here to race tonight.  The rest of the crowd which was very large were there more for the experience than anything else.

6 Minutes to go time

As is always the case there were a dozen or so 6-10 year olds who wanted to be at the front of the line for the starting gun – very dangerous of course, especially at night, where the faster runners would have to be very careful not to trample right over them.  I asked a few of the young kids to slide slightly to the left and the guys who were up front to race decided we would run out on the right side of the start basically 2X2 to make sure nobody tripped and fell.

Mile 1:  Our local race announcer Robert “Evil” Evilsizer gave his “runners to your marks” …. Horn start and we were off.  I love seeing Evil at the local events, I must have heard that start over a dozen times this year.

I shot out quickly and made the right turn onto the course around the traffic circle to let the rest of the runners who were trying to get out clean have some room on the course.  It was the first mile of a 5K I had raced since August 13th, my legs felt great, but I had no idea where we were on pace.  Without any light to look at my watch I decided just to settle in and run a quick-paced opening mile.  I would use Mile 2 to start to meter out my energy over the remaining distance and lock in to what our race pace should be.

I was hoping to run something in the 18:30 range, but really wasn’t sure how our legs would respond to this speed work after the New York City Marathon 5 weeks earlier.

A few of the younger runners flew by on my left at the 1/2 mile mark and we settled into 6th place over the first mile.  When we made it to the first mile marker we had turned in an opening mile of 5:43, just about perfect, although I had no way of knowing that on the course.

Mile 2:  At the start of mile 2 I settled in and backed off pace a bit, hoping to be running somewhere around 6:05-6:10 pace.  It felt right, but again, I really had no idea.  A runner came by my right side and slid past pushing us back to 7th place.  he did not “drop” us, just stayed 10-15 yards ahead over the next 1/2 mile.  I felt like he would be the runner to chase down and pass over the closing mile.

I tucked in and stayed right where I was.

Just as we were nearing the end of mile two I started to smell something familiar, but at first I couldn’t really place it, then as I got closer to the left turn and the tent where the aroma was coming from it became clear.  Draft Beer.

As we flew past the house with the unsanctioned, unofficial “beer tent” I yelled over, “I’ll be back!” and they all laughed and told me to be sure to come back after the race.  Mile two would come in right at 6:10 pace.  Just one mile to go.

Mile 3 – The Finish:  This part of the course featured some switchbacks as we made our way through the neighborhood and back toward the finish area.  I lost track of which direction we were heading a few times and really couldn’t tell how much further we had to go.  I pulled alongside the runner in 6th position and passed him on my left.

I could not hear any feet behind us, so it appeared we were solid in 6th place.  There was a younger runner up ahead who was on the cross-country team of his high-school.  I had an outside shot of chasing him down over the final 1/2 mile so I let the legs click over a little bit faster.

As we approached the 3-mile sign I had closed within a few strides of 5th place, but as soon as he heard me on his heels he dropped into a faster “young man’s” gear and I couldn’t quite catch up.  As we made the final turn I finished right on his heels just :01 out of 5th place.  Our last mile turned out at 6:04 pace.

Finish Time:  18:19.

6th place overall.

1st place Age Group.

Amazingly we had finished just :07 seconds off of our 5K PR without ever having looked at our watch.

New York City Marathon recovery = complete.

Back to the course:  I came through the chute and met up with Dawn and Landry.  Got a bottle of water, put on my Caleb’s Army T-shirt and after chatting with my girls for a bit, jogged back out onto the course for my cool-down.  I wanted to catch up with Bea, Jay, Caleb and the rest of Caleb’s Army and run in with the rest of the group.

My cool-down jog took me back out into the sea of runners, knowing that I would be able to see the large illumniated Caleb’s Army triple stroller on my way.  I made it to the “beer tent”, grabbed a quick beverage and caught up with Bea and the rest of the group.

I chatted with everyone on the way in, including a nice long chat with Caleb’s pediatrician/runner who will be running the 3M half-marathon in a few weeks.

The group was having a lot of fun and with about 1/4 mile to go we ran into Dawn and Landry – all of us making it back to the finish line for the second time of the night.

We made it back in time for the awards ceremony where Landry got a chance to meet Ronald McDonald himself – the Master of Ceremonies, and she got Dad’s AG medal.

Landry and Ronald McDonald

It was a lot of fun for sure, the best part is the fact that Caleb’s Army was the number one fundraising team finishing with $5,378 dollars raised to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

The number one fundraiser on Team Caleb?  Landry Marruchella who raised $600.  She pretty much thumped her Dad ($378).  That’s o.k. Landry, I can live with that, you are of course far, far cuter than your Daddy.

Landry post-race crashed with Dad's Medal

Pretty soon, he won’t even be faster than you are anymore …. then what the heck is he going to do?