Archive for April, 2012

If you have been following the blog over the last couple of months you are aware that back in February I started using the RESTWISE Recovery, Science and Technology program.

The tagline that RESTWISE uses is simple.

Superior performance through intelligent recovery.

They have developed a program that takes the science of recovery out of the lab and puts it in the athlete’s hands.  Each day you answer a brief series of research-based questions, enter data from a pulse oximeter (which measures your resting heart rate and blood oxygen saturation) and the resulting Recovery Score will quantify your body’s state of recovery.

If you missed it the first time – click HERE for the product review and the details on how the RESTWISE system functions.

In a nutshell, the athlete enters their data into either a web interface or an app on their smart phone/iPad and the feedback is teturned immediately in the form of a score out of 100%.  The tool also provides a date range snapshot graphically for you to see any trends that are developing.

Below is a look at my RESTWISE Recovery scores for the two-week period of April 14 through April 27.  Essentially my final two days before the Boston Marathon through my post-race recovery period.

The chart is very powerful as you can clearly see I was operating at the 90%-100% level leading up to Boston, poised for a breakout performance on race day.  I had completed a tough training schedule, set PR’s at both the 10K and half-marathon distances and was hitting all of my intervals leading up to April 16th.

The weather of course on race day reaching 87 degrees made racing impossible, so it looks as if we will never really know what we would have done at Boston in 2012 had we had neutral conditions.

The day after Boston, even racing at reduced intensity decreased my recovery score down by 40%.  As each day progressed as I was resting, getting my sleep and recharging the batteries, my score returned to 80% three days after Boston and I went for a short 2-mile run.  Another rest day and I was back to 90% and resumed my training.

As I worked through my recovery training schedule, gradually adding miles on the run, swimming and cycling I am now back operating at 100% and ready for this weekend’s workouts.

Open Water Swim Friday.

8 Mile Run Saturday.

10 Mile Run Sunday.

The new week kicks off with 15-Miles on the Tri-Bike Trainer on Monday morning with another Open Water Swim in the afternoon.

As we continue to move the needle forward this week and our Triathlon Race Season begins on Sunday we will be trying to balancing swim, bike, run and strength training workouts each week.   Over the next several months we will be racing 5 triathlons and four running events depositing us to the starting line of our first Half-Ironman in October.

Having a well-balanced training plan is important, but so is making sure that I say flexible in my approach.  I will have never pushed my workouts to these limits from a total mileage standpoint on the bike and the swim.  The run mileage while very much within my previous margins, will feel much tougher with the additional cross training.

Longhorn 70.3 Training Plan

RESTWISE is going to play a key role in my preparation for Texas Ironman 70.3.  When my recovery score dips down to the 60-70% range I am going to listen to my body, my mind and the science and back things off.  Move workouts around when needed and reduce the intensity of those sessions so that my body will not only experience the increased workload – but to truly benefit from it.  I need to allow the proper rest so that my body can in fact adapt to that increased intensity and grow stronger from it.

That is the key to leveraging RESTWISE effectively.  Knowing when your body is in need of a reduction in intensity to rebound, recover and grow stronger.  It also gives you a strong indicator that even though you had a tough workout yesterday or the day before – you are still operating in a recovered state (80-90%) that will allow you to continue training hard, to keep pushing.

Afterall, that is what we do.

We work hard, break ourselves down, give the body time to repair and reload, ADAPT – then grow stronger.

By the time we reach the edge of Decker Lake on October 28th and prepare for our first 1.2 mile swim in race conditions – I expect us to be absolutely in the best shape of our life.  Physically and mentally ready to go out and absolutely hammer the swim, bike and run to make an honest attempt at breaking 5 hours in our first Half Ironman event.

I have to do the work, of that there is no question.

But it is a great feeling however knowing that RESTWISE has my back.  Thanks guys.

Next weekend our first full-triathlon season will kick off at “The Rookie” on May 6th.

Despite having to miss two of Austin’s major triathlons over the Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day holidays – we are still going to have a full plate of TRI’s this summer: 

May 6 – The Rookie Super Sprint TRI 300M swim – 11 Mile Bike – 2 Mile Run

June 17 – Lake Pflugerville Sprint TRI 500M swim – 14 Mile Bike – 3 Mile Run

July 15 – Couples Sprint TRI 800M Swim – 11.2 Mile Bike – 3.2 Mile Run

August 5 – Jack’s Generic Sprint TRI 500 M Swim – 13.8 Mile Bike – 3 Mile Run

September 30 – Kerrville Olympic TRI 1,000M Swim – 29 Mile Bike – 6.4 Mile Run

October 21 – Austin Half Ironman 70.3 1.2 Mile Swim – 56 Mile Bike – 13.1 Mile Run

6 Events which will take us from the shortest of triathlon events all the way to the Half Ironman distance of 70.3 cumulative miles between the swim, bike and run.

There are a couple of running races on the schedule as well where I hope to run well and look to Age Group.  In June we are going for our 4th consecutive AG win at the Holland Texas 5K.  Being my last year running in the 40-44 year old category, I’d like to make it 4 for 4 which would be pretty special.

In September perhaps the “A” race of all “A” races in2012, The Prefontaine Memorial 10K in Coos Bay, Oregon. 

An event I’ve had on my bucket list since I started racing more than 5 years ago – it looks like this may be the year where I can make that trip happen, visit the famous track at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR and turn a few laps before heading to Pre’s hometown of Coos Bay.  With luck we’ll be primed for a big day running along one of his favorite training routes, past his Mother’s house along the route and at the end of the race, turn a final lap on the High School Track that bears his name.  Pretty cool.

One thing that I have learned about “race days” over the years is that you should expect the unexpected.  Poor weather, winds, storms, high heat, cold temperatures, having an illness prior to an event, not feeling well on race day and even simply showing up properly prepared mentally and physically only to discover over the opening miles that your head and heart were “in it”, but somehow your legs were not.

I’ve had it all happen to me over the years and as Boston proved just last Monday – you really can’t count on anything to go exactly the way you hope.

All you can do is show up and give it your best.

When it comes to the triathlon, this is even a dicier situation.  Not only do you need to have the weather cooperate – you need to be “on” in three different disciplines.

Your swim needs to be solid.

Your bike needs to be there for you.

Finally you must race smart to this point, conserving enough energy to let it all hang out on the run.

Of course there are also the matter of the two transitions to deal with.

Jack's Generic TRI 2011

You have to come out of the water focused and calm, get moving to T1 (Transition One), remove your goggles and cap, put on your socks, shoes, helmet and glasses, run to the mount line and hammer away on the bike.

T1

As you power to the dismount line on tired legs you need to run into T2 (Transition Two), rack your bike, take off your glasses, helmet and bike shoes.  Slip on your visor or running glasses, race flats and your number belt – grab a quick drink and you are off again.

We haven’t even started talking about any equipment trouble or heaven forbid a flat tire on the bike, which I had the joy of dealing with on Wednesday this week on a training ride.

It all has to come together for you with no hiccups or missteps.

Looking up at my race schedule for all that to go perfectly not once, not twice but SIX times is highly, highly unlikely.

That is exactly what has me so excited about this Summer and Fall.  Sometimes the excitement is about the “not knowing”.  At least it should be.

With any luck and some hard work hopefully we will find our way onto a podium or two – but if not – the real goal is to earn that Half-Ironman Finisher’s Medal with Dawn and Landry looking on in October.

We’ve been fortunate enough to earn a few of those medals over the past 5 years of racing, but that last one on the list above to a “runner turned triathlete” who quite honestly could not swim the length of a 50 Meter pool one year ago today will be something special.

I know exactly who’s little neck I can’t wait to put that one around.

Here’s to a summer of swimming, biking and running. 

Fast.

For many marathoners, especially first-timers, “race day” becomes something almost mythical.  From the time that your fingers nervously click on the “REGISTER” button on the race web-site, your mind starts wrapping itself around the idea that in a few months you will be standing on a city street somewhere about to run 26 miles, 385 yards.

For first-timers, the marathon will be the first time they have run further than 20 or 21 miles.  For seasoned veterans, the last time they will have covered that distance would be on a previous race day.  The memories and emotions tied to that last effort can be summoned from deep within with only a date, a city name or perhaps a time.

November 12, 2006 – First Marathon

May 2, 2009 – First BQ

Austin – Feb. 20, 2010 – ugh, the heat and humidity

3:17:43 – Pittsburgh 2009

New York – Marathon PR

Boston – we will never forget our two Boston’s

Pittsburgh II – Dom.

All of those races bring back strong memories.  Some of triumph, some perseverance, some painful, some joyous.  But even the oldest of memories, now more than 5 years ago remain quite vivid.

In each case I started a journey to that starting line like most would be marathoners do.  With a training plan that stretched out 18-24 weeks in advance, 5 months essentially, mapping out every single one of those 126 -168 days for me.

When I would run, how far I would go, when I would rest and now as my training plans have become more sophisticated and more aggressive – I even know how “hard” I will run each workout, sometimes even twice in one day.

You train, you battle injuries, bad weather, travel, holidays, vacations, oftentimes sacrificing precious sleep to make it all work.

You taper prior to race day and for the first time in weeks your body and your legs start to feel good.   Race day arrives, you dress, pin on your bib, make your way to the starting line and at the blast of the horn you find yourself crossing over the timing mat.

You run easy at first, wave to the crowd and settle into the race.

You run well for close to an hour, feeling fresh, like you just started.

Another mile or so passes and you notice you are starting to wipe sweat from our brow.  Your shirt is starting to stick to you a bit.  You hit the water stop, get a drink and dig in.  It’s starting now.

A few more miles and you notice a small pain somewhere.  For me it is usually on the outside of my hips at first.  You see the sign for mile 17 approaching.  Just 9 miles to go.  We’re still good you think.

Three miles later you reach mile 20.  You see some people walking through the water stop for the first time and you think, that might feel pretty good right now … but you don’t stop – still 10 Kilometers to go.

The marathon has just started.

You tick the miles off one after the other.

Your hips are pretty sore now and your calves and feet are feeling the miles.

Mile 24, Mile 25 and then you realize you are less than a mile to go.  You start to do math in your head …. If I run a final mile of 7:30 I can break 3:09:00, if I drop to sub 7:00 I have a shot at 3:08 or wait, do I?  3:03:42 + 6:XX … oh, no way I can run a 6:18 now, just keep pushing it.

You finally see the chute, you search for the extra gear, the one you have been saving for over 3 hours.  You see the clock, you hit the mat, and then …

Over.

The race that you have been building up in your mind as the be all and end all for the last 5 months comes to a screeching halt.

Whether you achieved your time goal or failed to reach it there is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.  You are a marathoner either for the first-time or “again”, but no matter how many finish lines you cross – every one of them is damn special.

You enjoy the accomplishment with friends and family.  You have a nice dinner and head off to bed.  The next morning you wake up, the muscles that felt, “pretty sore” the day before are now screaming at you.  Muscles you didn’t even know that you had.

Even your eye-lids seem sore.

And this is where it starts to get worse.

Many marathoners do not have an “after” plan.

They were married to a training plan stuck to their refrigerator for more than 5 months.  Now, they don’t have anywhere to go from that finish line.

They’re not sure when they will run again.  How far they should go or how fast.

Those endorphins that they have been using to kick-start their day for months are now gone.  They start to fall into a rut.  Go through the motions.  Mail it in.

They’ve lost their “mojo”.  They are basically depressed.

This is not a phenomenon unique to that individual runner – this is very common – in fact too common.  It happens to just about everyone if they do not have that post-marathon “plan” established.

So how do you do it?

Post Race Plan:

Before every training cycle starts, when I put together my training plan, I also schedule what I am going to do each day for the four weeks immediately following the marathon.

I refer to this as my “reverse taper” period.  It is the time when I am going to rest, recover and gradually work myself back to training and then racing.

I do this BEFORE the training cycle so I do not allow the results from my race determine what I am going to do from a recovery standpoint.

It is very easy to allow that race performance to make you think that you are ready for something that you are not.  Boston this year was a great example, where after a kick-ass training cycle I was more or less “robbed” of my race day.

87 degree temperatures and all I could do was trot along the Boston Marathon course hoping to make it to the end and finish the race safely.  There was no “race day” for me at the end of those 24 weeks.

Kind of a rip-off huh?

So, maybe I should just jump into a marathon again?  Maybe I should find one, you know in 3-4 weeks or something and race there.  I mean, I really didn’t exert myself too badly at Boston right?

Sure.  Tell yourself that.  Plenty of people go out for a 26.2 mile training run in 87 degree heat and then run a marathon PR 3 weeks later right?  Happens all the time.

How ridiculous is that notion?  Completely right?

Sure, because we are being rational about it.  But to an endurance junkie like a marathoner, especially a “disappointed marathoner” – what I described above can seem perfectly sane.  In fact, they will assign a level of “coolness” to it.  Make them feel more “badass” in pulling that off.

They will also more likely than not run poorly or get injured during or shortly after that second effort.  Too much, too soon and you are staring at the injured list.

Think you are disappointed from a poor race experience?  Try not running at all for 6 or 8 weeks and see how that feels.

The same trap can take place for runners coming off a great race.  They want to jump right back into training, run even more miles, faster splits – race another marathon and REALLY nail it.

Same situation – just different motivation behind the decision.  You have to be tough, strong and willful to run marathons.  But being smart helps a whole lot too.

By planning out those 4 weeks in advance, you remove all emotion from it.

You plan out your “days off” in my case 3 complete days off from running and put them on your training calendar.  You get to “Cross Off” those days just as you would a workout and give yourself a feeling of accomplishment.

Only 2 more days until I run, only 1 more day until I run, I get to run today!

I then reverse my taper workouts increasing the mileage the same way I cut it back leading up to the marathon.

First run – 2 miles.

Second run – 4 miles.

Third run – 5 miles.

Fourth run – 4 miles.

Fifth Run – 6.2 miles

Sixth Run – 10 Miles

I do not run on back to back days until my Fourth and Fifth runs, always leaving a rest day or cross training day in between.

I take 3 days off before the first run, which counting the rest and cross training days will stretch this recovery period to two-weeks post race.

At that point I resume a “normal” training schedule gradually stretching my Sunday long-run by two miles each week back to 16.  Once I have that my long run back to that level, I am ready for just about anything.

During this period of time it is important not to “assign” any value to a particular run.  I run completely by feel, no pre-conceived time goals or mile splits.  If 7:45’s feel good, I run them.  If 8:00”s are as fast as my legs want to go, that is fine.

This past weekend on Sunday I actually dipped down briefly into the 6:45, 6:50 range for the last two miles of my 5 mile run.  On a cool 51 degree morning with no wind, that pace came smooth and easy.  I then shut down the run at my scheduled 5-mile goal and took the day off on Monday.

Because this schedule is part of the marathon plan, days off do not feel like I am missing out on anything.  They are all part of the master plan to return this soon to be 45-year-old endurance athlete to competition.

Racing:

The final stage in the recovery process is a return to racing.  It doesn’t have to be another marathon, and in my view – it really shouldn’t be.  The marathon is a lot of things but “fun” isn”t necessarily the first word that comes to mind when I think of it.

A 5K, 10K, trail race?  Relay event?  All are fun events that allow you to pin on a bib, go fast and compete.  Get that race day feeling going again in your stomach and your legs – but even more importantly in your mind.

That feeling is good for your body, mind and soul.  I think it is a good idea to have that first post-marathon event scheduled before your training plan ever starts.  It gives you something to look forward to as you are getting yourself back to full-strength.

Two Sunday’s from now will be my first event since Boston.

“The Rookie” TRI here in Austin.  It is a super-sprint Triathlon that is geared to athletes new to the sport.  Waves are set aside for athletes in their first or second triathlon as well as waves and age group awards for those with more experience.

Being my second ever triathlon, I’m going to have some fun and race with the “Rookies” – 300 Meter Swim, 11 Mile Bike, 2 Mile Run.

By the time we get off of the bike and hit the run course – look out.

We’re going to have some fun …

If you Google “Marathon Training” in 0.14 seconds 43,600,000 results will be returned.

If you Google “Marathon Recovery” in 0.13 seconds 20,800,000 results will be returned.

53% fewer, and that’s not good.

Guess what, in some ways I think that smart recovery from a marathon and having a solid, well thought out plan for how to do so is even more important for a runner than preparing for the 26 mile, 385 yard race in the first place.

Apparently, not everyone agrees.

There is the physical side to recovery, which I’m sure most of you whether you have run a marathon or not can appreciate.  But there is also a mental side to recovery that I am not sure gets its due attention.

Today we’ll talk about the physical side of recovery from “the race”, later this week we will tackle the mental side.

Post Race – Immediately Following the Marathon.

This is perhaps the most important “window” in the early recovery period.  After Boston on Monday, running for more than three hours in incredible heat, I expended close to 2,800 calories.  I worked the same muscle groups repetitively for 3 hours and 44 minutes.  At a cadence of 180 strides per minute, that is more than 40,000 strides to cover the 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Boston.

“Legs” are the obvious area that need attention, but the engine needs some refueling as well.

Replacing fluids or “Hydrating” is a key part of the process.

During training runs in similar conditions I know that my sweat rate will cause me to lose close to 5 lbs. on a 20-mile training run in the summer despite taking in liquids frequently.

Add another 6.2 miles on top of that and I am looking at more than 6 lbs. or 96 ounces of fluids.  Think 6 standard bottles of water or Gatorade.

With a stomach that is not quite ready for food, as it takes a couple of hours for the blood to start flowing normally to all of the internal tissues and organs, including that digestive track – rehydrating is critical.

Eating salty foods, Pretzels, chips, heck even French fries can be a good idea to help get sodium back into your system.  But nothing is more important than to keep moving a bit, getting those fluids replaced and getting out of those wet clothes and into something clean and comfortable.

For those runners who immediately jump in a car, head to an airport, travel home post race – guys – not the smartest move from a recovery standpoint.  If you can arrange for an extra day in the city of the race to take it easy, get your sleep and allow the body to recover properly you are going to be back to “normal” a lot faster and a lot safer.

When you are ready to stomach some solid foods, then carbs and protein are your friends.  This will help repair those muscles, get that body back on solid footing and give it the type of nutrition it is craving.

Is Pizza calling your name after a marathon?  Chocolate Cake?  Ice Cream?  You deserve it all right?

Well, perhaps you do, but you might want to save those treats and rewards for what I call, “the day after, the day after” and jump start the recovery process with some pasta, bread, fresh vegetables, fruits and water, water, water.

Compression and Ice:

The faster you are able to get yourself into a compression and ice situation post-race, the sooner those small micro-tears in your muscles will begin healing.

Can you get home or to the hotel for an ice bath?  Way to go.  That 15 minute delay to your “celebration” is going to make a huge difference as you recover.

Not able to get to a hotel/home or shower?

Wait for it ….. I’ve got you covered.

110% Play Harder – Compression+

I reviewed their products previously – click HERE for the full review, but their approach to recovery is made for this exact situation.  I was able to slide into my compression+ gear as soon as I picked up my dry bag from the school bus outside the finish area.  I was walking, applying compression and icing at our post-race meet up just a couple of blocks from my hotel and the finish line on Boylston Street.

87 degrees on race day. Shoes, socks, shorts and our 110% Play Harder Visor.

Their products are designed to not only apply compression directly to the large muscle groups, but they have outer pockets in their gear to insert their patented “cool sheets” that apply ice therapy directly to the part of the body that needs it most.  Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Knees – absolutely TREMENDOUS.

You can learn more about 110% at:

http://www.110playharder.com/

As I made my way around the post-Boston crowd at Cuffs on Stuart Street a table full of marathoners stopped me and asked, “Do you have ice in those pants?”

Absolutely.

So not only did I have a nice cold adult beverage in my hand, I had ice on my quads and hamstrings already working on recovery.

Truth be told, I’m wearing my Quad Sleeves right now as I sit and write this piece.  They have given me the freedom to essentially recover whenever and wherever I want to or need to from a workout.  Friday morning after my first “run since Boston”, I had my quads and hamstrings compressed and iced within 10 minutes of returning to the house.

I honestly don’t know what I did before 110% Compression+.

I'm actually icing and applying compression RIGHT NOW with my friends Brian and Jim. Seriously.

Yes, their stuff is that good.

Massage Therapy – Rejuvenation:

I am not the biggest fan of getting a massage under normal conditions.  Some people love it, could go every week if they could afford to do so – but for me, I save it for recovering from a tough part of the training cycle or after a hard race.

A PR effort in the Half-Marathon, a 75+ mile week with a 23-mile training run and of course post-marathon.

Going to a spa will make you feel relaxed, but I seek out a massage therapist who specializes in sports massage.  Typically an athlete themselves, they understand the mechanics of an athlete’s body.  Where the most likely areas are broken down after a race, how and where to break up those masses of scar tissue and tight muscles and of course how hard the pressure should be to work out the kinks.

I had a session at Back Bay Massage on Tuesday, approximately 24 hours after the start of the Boston Marathon.  Sarah the owner at Back Bay Massage provided my treatment for 90 minutes, focused primarily on my legs and hips.

Each leg got 30-40 minutes of attention and after leaving her office I walked 1.5 miles over to the North End for lunch.  Kept the blood flowing to the legs and gradually I began to feel more and more like myself.

I could for the first time in the last 24 hours imagine running another step.  That is a breakthrough moment coming off of a marathon.  It is the moment when you start feeling like an athlete again.

Which brings us to the next phase of recovery – when do I resume training?

Return to Running – The Reverse Taper:

This is a dangerous part of the recovery process for athletes.  For the past 16-20 weeks they have had every day planned out for them.  When to run, how far to run, how fast to run – but now after the race?  Nothing.

No matter how good or how poor I feel after a marathon I stick to the same plan – which for me is to repeat my previous 5 runs leading up to the marathon in reverse order after resting for 3 complete days.

For Boston that meant:

Monday – Boston Marathon

Tuesday – OFF

Wednesday – OFF

Thursday – OFF/Swim

Friday – 2 miles

Saturday – Bike

Sunday – 4 miles

Monday – Swim

Tuesday – 5 miles

Wednesday – 4 Miles

Thursday – Swim

Friday – 8.3 Miles

Saturday – Bike

Sunday – 10 Miles

When I have completed that 10 mile run two weeks after the marathon, I know that I am back.

I have given my body time to recover, I have gradually returned to training running on back-to-back days only once, but getting back into a “routine”.

My schedule is mapped out for me.  I do not just “wing it” and try to do more than I am ready for just because I might “feel pretty decent” or see that my runner friend  so and so has already gone out and run 12 miles 5 days after the race.

Good for them.

This is not a competition.  The day to compete was during the marathon.

Recovery is your time to take it easy, regain your strength and start focusing on your next goal or set of goals.  By not breaking down your body further you are also impacting the mental side of recovery – getting back your “mojo” I call this.  When it is time to race again, you are going to be sharp both physically and mentally.

Your buddy who was out logging long miles less than 5 days from the marathon?  They are very likely to be sidelined with a mysterious ache or injury in the next month, while you are ramping back up and looking awfully good heading into your next race.

You’ll not only have your mojo back, but you’ll have the legs to go along with it.

Marathon Number 8 in the books.

Stop back this week and we’ll talk about the mental side of recovery from “the race”.

The Boston Marathon is more than just a running race.

I know that sounds strange, but the race this year was more “event” than race given the hot temperatures and the inability to really go out there and compete.  It just wasn’t safe to do so.

To describe it in words is tough to do.  It must be a little bit like the way the “hippies” talk about the 60’s.

“You just had to be there”.

There is a tremendous amount of hoopla surrounding the weekend as runners from all over the world descend on the longest running footrace on the planet.

The town is simply buzzing from the moment you walk off of the plane until the day after where marathoners are still dominating street cafes, pubs, Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall and riding around on WWII era amphibious assault vehicle through the streets of Boston and the Charles River.

The colors of the race year are everywhere, in 2010 all I saw wherever I looked was the familiar blue and yellow of the Boston Athletic Association.

This year it was the Orange and Black of the 2012 race.  Right now as I type this I am wearing my colors.  Proud of finishing what I hope will be the toughest race of my life.

Yeah, the weather for race day pretty much sucked.

If you were able to manage your expectations, give up on the fact that you were actually “racing” and just run for the experience of competing at Boston, it was one heckuva day.

I feel for and am still worrying about the runners I saw collapsed on the side of the course and at the finish area.  One I ran past literally less than 200 meters from the finish line.

I saw runners in wheel chairs being pushed to medical tents.  Others already in the tents with an IV in one arm and ice packs around them to lower their core temperatures.  There was a lot of carnage along the course.

More at the finish.

But I feel like just making it through to the line in one piece was a major accomplishment, my training obviously helped me stay upright and keep moving.  I’m glad I prepared as diligently as I did.  Hopefully it will springboard my TRI season to a new level once I am fully recovered and back to training.

I am going to take some extra precautions for the next couple of weeks.  Nothing “tough” and nothing “up-tempo” if it is not cool out.  This is the time of year in Austin where we typically start our 2-3 week period of heat acclimation for the summer.  I’m going to be careful with that and make sure I am hydrated and rested before pushing it too hard out there.

This year’s “Boston” is the type of race that can linger and effect your fitness and performance for a longer period of time than just when the soreness from the race leaves your legs and body.  I plan on competing for a long time, there is no rush to start killing it out there right away.  We have a TRI on May 6th and that will more than likely be the first time we spread our wings again after recovering.

Looking back on the weekend there were a lot of great things about “Boston” aside from the race.  This was Landry’s first trip to the Boston Marathon where at not quite yet 20 months old she has seen her first New York City Marathon and her first Boston Marathon.  Have you?

That is pretty special right?

She was able to pile on to one of those Duck Tours with Mom and Dad and had a blast seeing Boston.

Landry checking out the Charles River

She even got a chance to drive the “boat” on the Charles River.  Captain Landry did a tremendous job, Paci in her mouth and all.

Captain Landry at the helm

After a GREAT sports Massage at Back Bay Massage on Boylston Street, (runners – schedule a session with Sarah, she is tremendous!) I took a walk over to the North End for lunch.  I stopped into the Florentine Cafe at 333 Hanover Street and visited with the local Italian men who are regulars.  I sat at the bar with my homemade Cavatelli in a light red sauce with fresh Peccorino Romano Cheese grated over my bowl and was told stories about the neighborhood.  What growing up in the North End was like and I told them what it felt like to race through the streets of Boston.

As I was talking with them, a man named Jimmy was eating a salad and drinking a beer next to me.  He quietly listened to me compliment the B.A.A. and the job they did managing the course, the heat and the runners to make it as safe as possible for everyone.

Turns out, Jimmy is one of the 22 full-time employees for the Boston Athletic Association.  He wanted to hear my take on things before he told me that – and then shared with me all that goes into planning the race as they are already working on the 117th running next April.

Jimmy turned me on to a little local pastry shop that “blows away” the famous Mike’s Pastry on Hanover Street.  I stopped in on Jimmy’s recommendation and picked up a pound of my favorite pistachio green leaf cookies from my childhood.

Jimmy – you are the man!  Thank you for the great advice and offer about coming to see you for next year’s race for some complimentary Boston Marathon Gear!

I then walked over to the Bill Roger’s running center and shook hands with Bill and chatted about the race.  Nothing to sign this year, but seeing  him look at me with a great deal of respect for finishing the race in what he described as, “just a crazy, crazy day to run a road race” made me smile.

Tuesday night at Fenway Park I caught a foul ball.

Still got hands

Wednesday I flew back home to my girls in Austin and more hugs.

Boston 2012?  O.K., so the race didn’t come together for me like I hoped, but you know what?

It was still wicked awesome.

Over the last 24 hours leading up to the Boston Marathon, the B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) sent a series of e-mails to the registered participants.

They spoke of near record breaking temperatures, the dangers involved with running the race and lastly, they offered runners the opportunity to choose not to race after they picked up their bibs at the expo and they would be offered deferred entry into the race in 2013.

Really an amazing thing considering that the size of the field for 2013 is certainly not going to be expanded. Spots for next year’s running of one of the most sought after race bibs in road racing will become even more scarce. Runners will have to train harder and run even faster to qualify next year.

The thought of deferment never really crossed my mind as anything more than passing fancy. Part of that was knowing I was walking around with a qualifying time for next year that is more than 16 minutes below my qualifying standard.

If I want to run Boston next year, I can. That was an envious position to be in on Monday morning riding out to the start of the race.

But the words that stuck with me on race morning from the B.A.A. were, “Tomorrow’s Boston Marathon should not be treated as a race, it is an experience”.

Boy, were they right.

Pre-Race:
I had arranged to ride up to the start with some good runner friends of mine, Jim Moore from Austin and Mark and Tammy Williams from Pittsburgh. All three would be running their first Boston, I was the “veteran” of our crew with one whole race already under my belt.

We rode up in a chartered bus instead of the school busses furnished by the B.A.A. and the extra room and comfortable ride was quite nice. It would be the last time we would feel “comfortable” all day.

After an accident delay on the Mass. Pike, we arrived in Hopkinton a little bit after 8:15. Only an hour until Jim and I would be making our way to the corrals. We gave Mark and Tammy best wishes and Jim and I took a quick tour of the high-school grounds, took care of our porta-pottie needs, grabbed a bottle of water and sat down for a few minutes.

I had thought about trying to dial things back to 3:20 pace or so, thinking that would be plenty conservative on a “hot” day. But the temperatures in Hopkinton were already above 80 degrees, there would not be a single mile run even in the 70’s. I knew that goal was too aggressive.

I decided to run the first half at that pace over the downhill sections, then just “trot it in”. Whatever the time on the clock said, I knew on one hand I would be disappointed, but on the other I knew that just finishing the race was the goal. Not ending up in a medical tent or with a D.N.F. next to my name was really the only thing that mattered.

The Start:
After checking my bag into the school bus to be retrieved when we reached Boston I was down to Shorts, Socks, Shoes and a visor.

I was already steaming, could feel the sun beating down on my right side, where it would remain for the length of the Point to Point Marathon Course. With only three turns in 26.2 miles, two of which come in the final 1/2 mile – the sun would be my running partner the whole way.

I ducked into my corral, chatted with a few runners and after the Star Spangled Banner I looked down at the names on my shoes – Dom, David, Scott, Mom. Just finish baby, that was my last thought as I crossed the Start line on Main street and punched my watch.

The First Half:
As we crossed the starting line I fell right in to 7:27 pace. It felt like a training run. The taper had rejuvenated my legs from a tough training cycle and I was really feeling great. Except for the heat. It was stifling. Too bad I thought, we were ready to lay something special down on April 16th.

Unfortunately, April 16, 2012 would prove to be the hottest in recorded history on that date in Boston. Unreal.

I ran for a couple of miles looking for my friend Bob from Long Island. He was running for Boston Children’s Hospital and was staring in a corral two ahead of mine. Bob is a tremendous runner with sub 3:00 hour marathons on his resume, but has been battling injury for the past year. He was going to be running a bit slower than even I would be and we talked about hooking up for a mile or so.

I saw Bob on the left of the course among a sea of marathoners that stretch as far as the eye can see. Boston is quite a site at the start as you begin at the highest point of the course as it falls away from you, hundreds of feet in the opening miles and straight ahead.

All the way to the horizon you see the bright colored singlets and hats of the runners bouncing up and down – for more than a mile. It is something you really have to see to believe.

I waved at Bob as he was glancing over his shoulder every few strides looking for me.

We shook hands, chatted a bit and ran a full mile together. It was my favorite part of the day.

We talked about the day, the goal in finishing the race and to play it smart.

After a mile or so we said our goodbyes. Bob and I would share a cold beer and a hug several hours later.

Ashland, Framingham, Natick – we ran through each of the towns with the locals opening their hearts and their homes to the runners. Not only was the cheering and encouragement up to amazing Boston standards – but they were spraying runners with hoses, had sprinklers set-up to wet the runners, giving away orange slices, water, ice, cold towels – it was really heart-warming.

You felt like you owed it to them to keep going. Don’t walk. Don’t give in. Run with honor.

I still felt good and solid up through the first 10 miles of the race, but I could feel my legs start to fight me just a bit. I knew it was only a matter of time when this once strong, confident, well-trained marathoner would be reduced to a slowing, short-striding jogger.

It wasn’t going to be a surprise when it happened, so I was not disappointed, I actually found myself looking forward to the Newton Hills. When we finally got there, all I had to do is make it to the top of Heartbreak and I knew we had it.

I hit the half-way point about a minute slow of our opening goal pace. 1:39:51.

I was going to try to run a 2 hour second half and come in at 3:40. Definitely not a time to write home about, but I just wanted to be one of the fortunate ones to make it all the way to the finish line in one piece.

Over 4,000 runners decided not to start the race. Another 2,100 would be treated for heat related issues. Those two groups accounted for more than 1 out of every 5 of the 26,700 registered athletes. I was determined not to be one of them.

The Second Half:
We hit Wellesley College and the famed screech tunnel just before the half-way point. The Co-Eds at Wellesley were once again in rare form. Screaming for the runners, hanging over the barricades with their signs, asking for kisses.

I did not kiss anybody, but I did go out of my way to high-five two of the girls on my way by. The first one held a sign that read, “Kiss me I’m from Texas!” the second had a huge sign that said, “I won’t tell your wife!”.

Classic.

Shortly after Wellesley I backed way off of the pace down to 8:30’s. I ran through every water stop and repeated the same routine over and over.

I would grab a cup of Gatorade at the first table and drink half of it.

I would grab two cups of water at the next table, the first I would pour directly over my head.

The second I would drink half of, carry for a few strides, then dump that on my head as well.

By the time I would be 1/2 of a mile down the road, I would be completely dry. Amazing the heat.

We got to the Newton Fire Station and made the right hand turn, 10 miles to go to the finish – but more immediately was the thought of climbing the Newton Hills.

On the first uphill I dropped my pace down to 9:30. Just a trot, slow and steady – a pace I knew I could repeat for the next 1 hour and 30 minutes or so.

I thought about how just 4 weeks ago I ran 13.1 miles at 6:22 pace in Virginia Beach, 1:23:46.

Same runner, different situation and all we had to give were 9:30’s to play it safe. What an amazing day.

The Newton Hills arrived one after the other, as I crested the third hill I knew the only thing left was Heartbreak. I hit the water stop about 1/2 mile from the last hill and grabbed a popsicle from one of the children on the side of the course.

Talk about surreal. I was running the Boston Marathon with a cherry popsicle in my right hand, feet and shoes soaked with sweat and water, no shirt on at 9:30 pace.

If you would have told me this is how my 2012 Boston would go a few months ago I would have thought you were crazy. But it was real. Boy was it ever.

I tossed the popsicle stick to the ground and dug in. Passing runner after runner who was slowed to a walk we made our way to the top and the Boston College Campus where the students were going crazy for the runners. Shouting encouragement, calling out names and bib numbers, willing runners to the finish.

We made it to Brookline and only had a few miles to go. Slow and steady I hit the water stops, kept drinking, pouring and drinking trying to not give up which was oh so tempting at this point.

As we finally made it to Fenway Park and 1 mile to go I reached the point where I had run to on Sunday morning for my 2-mile shakeout. I had run out from the finish line so I could run the final mile of the course the day before the race as I had in New York back in November.

In 50 degree weather on Sunday morning I covered this mile in 6 minutes and 22 seconds.

In 87 degree weather after 25 grueling miles I would run it in 8:35.

We made the turn off of Commonwealth Avenue and turned right on Hereford Street, pushed pace ever so slightly up the hill to Boylston and made the final left turn. 1/2 mile to go.

I waved to the crowd lining the street and tried to smile for them. Nothing really “hurt” to be honest as it does at the end of a marathon where you are really racing – my legs just didn’t have any jump.

All of the blood that powers those legs had been recruited elsewhere to help keep my body temperature regulated. We were simply doing the best we could.

One final wave to the finish line photographers and we crossed the line.

3:44:41

Done.

Post Race:
I made my way through the finishing area, got my medal, bag, food and water and as I shuffled along I heard “MARRUCHELLA!”

It was Dawn and Landry just outside the barrier and the tears I had held in for almost 4 hours filled my eyes. That is when you realize what you were really running for. It wasn’t a finish line, a medal or a cool jacket. I was running for my hugs.

Today, one day after finishing I have some mixed emotions. Certainly I would have preferred to race in 45 degree weather and see just how ready we were for Boston.

But there is a part of me, walking around the hotel and seeing other runners this morning that makes me proud of running yesterday. We look into each other’s eyes and know just what that other runner sees in us. The same we see in them. Ultimate and everlasting respect.

There is something pretty cool about that. No matter how many races I run and finish lines I cross I learned a valuable lesson yesterday.

It really is all about the journey. I’m glad I made the decision to take this one. I’ll never forget it.

O.K., I’ll admit it. Since arriving in Boston I have been a little down.

I like many runners from all over the world descended on the most storied Marathon in the free world with great expectations. I had trained better and harder than I had for any race of any distance at any time in my life.

I came here with one goal – and that was to be able to stare at myself in the mirror after my post-race shower and know that I was the best I have ever been. That I had slayed the dragon at Boston. A claim very few can make.

Well I found out that Mother Nature does indeed have a sense of humor and instead of a neutral day, we will be running in what looks like the second hottest Boston marathon in the 116 years the race has been held.

To make matters worse, temperatures will be rising throughout the race, even as we approach Boston and the sometimes cooling effect the harbor can have on the city.

Not on Monday.

Yesterday I went to the expo and I got my bib for the race. Did some shopping and bought Landry a stuffed Unicorn in a Boston Marathon T-shirt named Spike. On the cab ride back to the hotel it happened.

The cab driver asked me about what it’s like to run Boston. I could see in his eyes that he thought I was someone special.

Not in the way that our Mother’s make us feel that way, as that is pretty much part of the job description. But only the way a complete stranger can. He looked and spoke to me, this “Everyman” from Austin, TX with great reverence.

I felt “honored”.

As I laced up my race shoes for a quick 2-mile shakeout to get the blood flowing back into my legs on Sunday morning I saw the names on my shoes. The people in my life I am dedicating this race to.

Scott Birk, David Roitman, my Mom and of course Dom.

I don’t think Dom would be the type to lay down tomorrow just because of a bad weather forecast. In fact, I know he wouldn’t. He would run the race tomorrow to the best of his abilities and would not let some clock on a street tell him the worth of his effort.

I ran out from the finish line on Sunday, turned around in the street and then ran back over the final mile of the course. Mirroring the final 5,280 feet we will run tomorrow.

Our Bib number – 5280.

Commonwealth Ave., Hereford, Boylston.

Marathon’s royalty.

Tomorrow we are going to run the race with honor.

Try to do our best.

We can still do what we came here to do, and that is look ourselves in the mirror after the race and KNOW we are the best we have ever been.

I just had to change the way that is defined.

Sorry it took me a couple of days to come around Dom. As always, you have a way of teaching me things even now. For those of you following along tomorrow, tracking runner 5280 – don’t worry if we are running slower than we normally do or if my pace starts to falter late.

There is great honor in simply trying your best. That is what I would be telling my daughter under the same circumstances. And I would be right.