Archive for April, 2013

In 1961 the Shirelles recorded “Mamma Said” – I think they had Sunday’s race in mind when they laid down that top ten R&B Song:

The weather forecast was calling for 50% chance of showers, temperatures around 70 degrees and high humidity.  Not ideal conditions at any point in the year.  But the first few weeks of hot weather seems to sap runners strength, speed and stamina more than it does after a few weeks of heat acclimation.  Every runner is different, but for me each spring it takes me about 21 days before I start to feel “normalized”.  I doesn’t make the weather any cooler – but I do tend to get used to it and some adjustments end up being made.  I can hold pace better and longer than I can just a few weeks earlier.

For Bun Run, this was going to be the first “nasty” day where I tried to do anything up tempo.  I knew it was going to be a tough race, but I hoped that I could hang in there and gut out something in the sub 39:00 minute range.  Coming of a race the week before, and another one two weeks before that – I knew I wasn’t “perfect”, but sometimes you surprise yourself I thought as I drifted off to sleep.

Pre-Race:  I slept through the night and hopped out of bed for the usual routine.  Teeth brushing, warm shower to loosen up a bit and some light clothes.  Runderwear, lightweight shorts, small socks and my Brooks Pure Flows that I would be warming up in.  I threw on a singlet that I would wear during warm-up, but I had my bib pinned to my shorts as this would be the first shirtless race of the season.

The drive down was uneventful as I ate my Bagel and drank a Gatorade and water.  Hit the portapotties upon arrival and stretched next to the start/finish area.  Everything was going as planned, but I was comfortable sitting in the dark in just my shorts and singlet.  Sounds like nice weather – and it is – for just about everything but racing.

Warm-up:  I left the start area for a 2-mile warm-up of gradually increasing 1/2 mile splits:  4:05, 3:57, 3:55, 3:47 – 15:49.  Last weekend I did the same warm-up prior to the Red Poppy 5K in 15:39.  I was in my wind pants, a pullover and did not break a sweat running the warm-up over 2 miles where the net elevation change was  feet.

On Sunday prior to Bun Run I was running easy, but already had my singlet sticking to my back and sweat trickling down my brow.  132 feet of elevation change over those two miles.  I stared feeling like it was going to be a tough race.  I went back to the car, changed into my race flats, ditched my singlet, drank a little more Gatorade and made it over to the start area.  Ready to go.

I tucked into the chute with about 20-25 runners in front of me.  Saw David Yin who is part of my new training group and Chris Gunderson from Brooks Running.  A couple more of the usual suspects in Austin and felt like I was lined up right where I needed to be.  After the National Anthem I hopped a few times, legs felt warmed up and ready to roll.  Robert “Evil” Evilsizer from Evil’s Good Time Racing did the honors as he has at 80% of the Austin Races we have ever run.

“Runners to your mark, Horn!”

Miles 1&2:  In my mind I wanted to open up with a 6:05 first mile.  Nothing too crazy, but a first mile where I could hold on to pace if it felt right, or dial back slightly to 6:15 or so if the conditions warranted.  I fell into a group of four with the top two female runners and another tall, lanky runner who I did not know.  We stuck in a pack up through the mile one mark and opened with a 6:04:80.  Perfect.

Immediately as we started mile 2 it seemed like the group was slowing.  Effort felt equal, but we were all now falling :10 a mile off of pace.

We hit mile two in 6:17.  My 10K PR of 37:30 at the IBM Uptown Classic equates to 6:01 pace for the entire 10 Kilometer course.  This had all of the early indications of an ugly race.

Miles 3&4:  Mile 3 features a fairly gnarly climb of 71 feet.  Think 7 story office building and you have it about right.  The first female started to open up some room on the rest of us, but I was hanging with my other runner friends, trading positions back and forth but nobody being able to break free.  Mile 3 came in at 6:47 and as we made our way down the hill to start mile 4 I took some time to recover from the climb.  I let the male runner get ahead of me by 10 meters or so, the 2nd overall female was falling behind me just a bit, but still in contact.  Mile 4 came in at 6:29 and I felt like that was as good as it was likely to get the rest of the race, still staring the long grinding hill over the final mile up Cesar Chavez to the South First Street Bridge.

Miles 5&6:  Mile 5 was just a couple of ticks faster at 6:27, we hit the last water stop, dumped the cup of water over head, took another one for a few sips and dropped it in the waste can as we strode by.  I started to reel in the male runner that had been out ahead of us for the last two miles.  I wanted to get back in contact with him, pull even before the bridge and try to outkick him to the finish.  We were running in 14th position overall, I set my sights on 13th and dug in.

I was trying to stay positive, focusing on the fact that nobody had caught me and that I was gaining on the runner in front of me – but to be honest – this part of the race was pretty rough.  I kept my eyes downward, dug into the hill and essentially retraced the 2nd mile of my warm-up.  Just before the bridge I caught the runner in front of me, slid past on the turn and turned as tight as I could.   I hit the bridge and once I made it to the middle of the bridge we hit mile 6 in 6:28.

6:29, 6:27, 6:28 were the final 3 miles.  The good news is we didn’t fall off late.  The bad news is we were :15 seconds/mile slow.

Finish:  As many downtown races finish, Turkey Trot, SI Labs Relay we made the turn off of the bridge, got a shoutout from Coach Carmen and kicked to the finish.


13th place overall.

2nd place in age group.

Aftermath:  It had been awhile since I had a race where I was truly disappointed  in my finish.  Perhaps that is something to celebrate in and of itself.  But I have to admit that the last week has been a mixed bag – coming from an overall first place finish at the Red Poppy 5K I had a lot of confidence heading into Bun Run.

But come race day, the result from a time perspective just wasn’t anywhere near what we were hoping for.  I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to put it all in perspective – obviously a top 15 finish in a 909 person event is pretty solid.  The course did measure 1/10 long this year as the Start/Finish Line was pushed back a bit further than usual on Auditorium Shores, and of course the weather was pretty brutal.

This week kicks off Big Cottonwood Marathon Training and frankly I have a bad taste in my mouth coming off of Bun Run.

That might be the best thing for me right now as I am a determined runner who is looking to improve and race better the next time.  Of course, the next time is 18 weeks away when the temperature is back in the 40’s and we stand 26.2 miles away from a return to the Boston Marathon in 2014.

I’m not entirely sure how things are going to go out in Salt Lake City, UT – but I can promise this much – we are going to be as prepared as possible for that morning and are going to run our heart out.  Usually after a flat race I bounce back with a good one.  let’s hope that is the case this time.

First workout with Coach Carmen tomorrow morning after 8 miles on Monday and Tuesday to start the week.

Here we go.

Sunday marks the 31st running of the Schlotzky’s Bun Run here in the 512.

An Austin institution that added a 10K race just last year to the traditional spring 5K.brlogo_2013

As I was putting together my spring plans coming back from the Achilles strain that had us on the shelf for 5 weeks over the winter, I knew that one of the fastest ways for me to get my speed back would be to do a little bit more racing than we normally do this time of year.  Sunday will be our 5th race in the last 56 days, which even for us who tends to race fairly frequently is an aggressive pace.

3 5K races at the Texas Independence Day, Thin Mint Sprint, Red Poppy 5K and two 10K races at the Cooper River Bridge Run and Schlotzky’s.

No PR’s during this stretch of races, and really none were expected.  The courses, our fitness level coming back from injury and our goals for each event did not lend themselves to those types of performances.

What I have seen however is what I have hoped to see, which is steady improvement, not a single peep from our Achilles and a return of my racing mindset.

Closing 400 at Thin Mint Sprint

Closing 400 at Thin Mint Sprint

After Sunday we will have only one more race on our calendar before we stand at the starting line at the Big Cottonwood Marathon on September 14, as we will be once again heading up to Holland, TX for the Cornfest 5K for the 5th year in a row.  Still Age Group undefeated in Holland, I’d like to keep that streak intact for at least one more year.

But after that race it will be nothing but training for Cottonwood the remainder of June, July and August.  It is going to be a hot summer here in Austin, filled with new workouts with our coach and training group and fitness gains that will put us on the starting line in September the most prepared and dialed in marathoner we have ever been.

On Sunday at Bun Run we are going to let it all hang out.  My race plan is not going to put us in a position to approach our PR of 37:30.  That will have to wait for the Fall and the IBM Uptown Classic.  But I hope to run a solid 1 min faster than we did at the Cooper River Bridge Run three weeks ago.  A solid :10 second per mile improvement should be a good target given the course differences and improvement to my fitness level since Charleston.

So there will be no overall wins this weekend, no PR’s, no age group accolades likely.  Just another stop on the way to Cottonwood and hopefully a time of 38:19 or better.

Sunday morning for the 5th time since Texas Independence Day – Boom goes the dynamite.

There was a time when running the Boston Marathon was my absolute, no questions asked, number one goal when it came to distance running.

In May of 2009 I calmly stood at the starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon after the most aggressive and difficult training cycle I had ever completed with a couple of numbers etched in my mind.  3:19:59.  7:37.

7:37 pace would give me my qualifying time of 3:19:59.  If I could lock in, navigate the hills in Pittsburgh and run strong to the finish I would find myself at the starting line of the greatest footrace on the planet that April.

In one of the top 5 race plans I have ever executed regardless of distance, I ran fearlessly to a 3:17:43 finish at 7:31 min./mile pace.  I, just a novice runner who took up the sport in 2006, running in my third ever footrace at any distance and second marathon had qualified for Boston.  The experience was surreal.

In just over a month we would be made aware of Dom’s illness.  Cancer would come into our lives for really the first time up close and personal.  Boston became much more important than just a footrace.  It became part of a two marathon in 13 day adventure that changed my life forever.

In 2012 I went back to the Boston Marathon not running for Dom or against cancer or for any other “statement”.  I was now a multiple marathoner having run a 3:08 in New York in 2011 and I went to Boston as the 5,280th fastest qualifier for the race.  I “belonged” in Boston and was looking forward to my second attempt at slaying the dragon which is the course from Hopkinton to Boston.

Fate threw us 87 degree temperatures in 2012 and I never really got to do any racing.  I decided I would just “trot it in”, live to fight another day and reload for a different marathon somewhere down the road.  “Boston” had been crossed off of my list not only once, but twice and I doubted that I would ever return to Hopkinton and if I did, it would be a long time down the road.

Perhaps when I turned 50 I thought or if I was still running marathons at age 60, maybe that would be a race that would mean something to me.

Last Monday a lot of things changed for a lot of us.

“Boston” all of a sudden became something that I know in my heart that I need to do next year.  I am a runner and more appropriately, I am a marathoner.  And the place where a marathoner belongs next April is at the starting line of the Boston Marathon.

For the first time in a few years I do not have a “Boston time” in my back pocket when registration opens in September.  Knowing the outpouring of support in the running community for the victims of the blasts last Monday and the support for the city of Boston and its iconic road race – this will be the most competitive registration process ever for Boston.  Registration will open in the middle of September and the race is going to fill up faster than ever.

Due to some changes in the way the registration process works that started for the 2012 race, runners with times 15 minutes better than the qualifying standard will have an exclusive registration window to go first.  Then runners with a time 10 minutes better than their qualifying standard.  When that period ends, it will be runners with better than 5 minutes and then finally everyone with a qualifying time that is :01 second to 4 minutes and 59 seconds better than their BQ or Boston Qualification.

The “faster” runners with the better times will get in before the “slower” runners vs. their goal time.  So the cutoff will more than likely be somewhere in the 2 minute to 4 minute range based on previous years.

As a runner who will be 46 years old next spring at Boston my Qualifying time is 3:25:00.  7:48 pace.

A 3:20:00 will more than likely get me a ticket to the party – right back to my friend 7:37 pace.  The irony is not lost on me.

With a solid training schedule and good health, we should be able to comfortably run a marathon on a neutral course in neutral weather conditions in 3:05-3:10.  2:59:00 is really the target goal that we have our sights set on.  But the marathon is a fickle race and a lot of unexpected things can take place.  So we are going to be taking nothing for granted.

The biggest problem for us right now is the “when” not the “if”.  I needed to find a fall marathon that would give me an opportunity to run my Boston time prior to registration opening.  After looking long and hard at all of the races around the country, very few in the month of September presented a great chance for cool weather and a flat or fast course before September 16th.

After a lot of consideration today we registered for our next marathon.  Big Cottonwood in Salt Lake City, UT.

A race quite frankly I had never heard of before last week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.  A race that was run for the first time last year.  But the dramatic downhill course coupled with a 6:40 a.m. start (7:40 Austin time) and it’s point to point nature if weather conditions are optimal will allow us the opportunity to toe the line with a great chance of executing our race plan and earning our way back to Boston.

At some point on September 14th the battle is going to start.  My body telling me that it is ready to quit and my mind telling me that we have more to fight for.  In a strange way I am looking forward to the pain, because just like 2009 I know that I have what it takes to set all of that aside and fight tooth and nail for that Boston time.

If I run a new PR, good for me.  Break 3 hours?  Even better.  But if things don’t set up that way for me through the half-way point and we are not clipping along at 1:28:30 and the elevation is taking a little bit of a bite out of us – not to worry.  We still have a lot to fight for and come hell or high water I can honestly say that I am willing to do whatever is necessary to hang on like grim death over the final 10 kilometers to the finish.

I am going to be flying out to UT alone on Friday morning, running the race on Saturday and flying home alone again on Sunday morning shortly after sunrise.  There will be no wild celebrations, no post-race breakfast parties or dinners out with friends, no hugs from Dawn and Landry at the finish line or high fives to my runner buddies here in Austin.

This is nothing more than a business trip.  I am going to collect my medal, pose for the post-race picture and savor the day for a few moments.  I will then immediately start thinking about April 2014 and how we are going to prepare for our greatest effort at the greatest road race in the world.

I would not miss being there for anything.

On to Big Cottonwood.cottonwood

On October 3, 2010 after I let a race win slip through my fingertips at the Harvest Fest 5K I wrote: “One of the things I love about racing is how I feel like I learn something each and every time out. What I learned today is that if I am ever fortunate enough to find myself out front again, I will need to tap into that intensity necessary to keep pushing pace and chase after the win. Mental toughness is a big part of distance running, I feel like I came up a bit short in that department at Harvest Fest.”

I have thought about that race a lot over the years, wondering if I would ever have another opportunity to run out front and challenge for an overall win.  Locally at small races I usually find myself battling it out somewhere in the top 10 overall, racing for 1st place in my age group or 1st place Masters (over 40) on a good day.  But there are usually younger runners who are well out in front of us setting the pace.

On that October day I led the race from the opening horn until the 2.5 mile mark only to have Scott McIntyre – now a runner friend of mine – pass me with 1/2 mile to go and drop me like a bad habit.  Scotty was a better runner than me then, and frankly he is a better runner than me now.  I’ve had my moments, like at the IBM Uptown Classic in 2011, my 10K PR race where I was able to beat Scott head to head.  But those moments are few and far between.

But back in October 2010, I let a runner hang off of my back shoulder and apply pressure to me – mental pressure – that got into my head and caused me to run tense, let self doubt creep in and I faltered.  I told myself that if I was ever there again it would be different.  I would run smarter, tougher, not give an inch.  But deep down I always wondered if I would be able to respond if every placed in that same position.

Leaving the house on Sunday little did I know that I was about to find out.

Pre Race:  It would be the first time racing back in Georgetown since 2010.   Oddly in the same park along the San Gabriel River that hosted the scene of our defeat at the hands of Scott.  A different course, going a different direction, with only about 3/10 of a mile of overlap – but it was not lost on me where we were headed.

Pretty regular 5K pre-race morning.  A quick shower to loosen the muscles, teeth brushed and dressed in our race gear I grabbed our breakfast (Bagel) on the go and our cooler with Gatorade and a water to hydrate a bit on the 30 minute ride to the race.  I hit the scale before leaving the house and weighed in at 134.5. The weight we like to race the 5K and 10K at spot on.  136.5 for the half marathon, 138 for the full.  Always a good sign for us when we are where we need to be in that department.

Warm-Up:  After finding the finish area I dropped my dry bag and decided to run a 2-mile warm-up at just a little bit brisker pace than normal.  It was in the high 40’s and I wanted to get a sweat going before dropping my sweatshirt, wind pants and gloves to race in just a singlet and shorts with the sun rising over the river in Georgetown.  I ran from the finish line of the course one mile out, which also previewed the race course from about 3/10 of a mile into the race up to the 1.3 mile mark.

My stride felt solid, not perfect, but solid and I was enjoying still winds with the sun coming up.  I knew a little bit about the course, and was looking to my left for the low water crossing that would place us back up onto the trail we were on currently.  Where that intersection was would mark the final turn of the race and it would be game on to the finish.

When I saw the water crossing my heart sank a bit.  There was a steep 3-way switch back ramp that we would have to navigate 2.2 miles into the race.  It was going to be a pace-killer and a rhythm breaker for sure.  It would affect everyone the same, but seemed like it would be about a :10 second “penalty” for the runners.

I spun around, ran back to the finish line and clocked our warm-up 2-miles in 15:37.  Nice and steady.

I switched out of my Brooks Launch, took of my wind pants and put on my Brooks T7 Racers.  Tucked my sweatshirt into my dry bag, grabbed my sunglasses and made my way up to the start area at 4th and Scenic Drive.  I was late arriving to the start area, said a few quick hello’s to my Friend Mick and a couple of runners I know – lastly Bill Schroeder came over to me and asked if I “Knew where the route went” as if I would be leading the way I thought …. for the first moment the thought crossed my mind that I might actually be running in the top 2 or 3 runners.

Just like that we took a moment of silence for those effected by the Boston Marathon tragedy and the Blast out in West, Texas outside of Dallas and then it was, “Runners to your mark – Horn!”

Mile 1:  The race started with a pretty significant downhill section that rolled to the left and then back around to the right.  I had jogged up the hill on the way to the starting line and looked at the footing, the turns and where there might be loose stones.  There would be a few things to navigate – but mostly it was going to be fast.  My thought was I would try for an opening 1/2 mile split of 2:46 running at 90% of our usual opening 1/2 mile effort.  The downhill would let us save a little bit and fall in smoothly.

As the horn sounded we jumped out early and there was nobody ahead of us.  Just a few sets of feet behind us, one pair directly behind us – but the course was wide open ahead.  We thundered down the hill, around the turn and past what would be the finish line area in about 17 minutes or so.  There was a smattering of cheers and the course flattened out.  At the first 1/2 mile mark my watch beeped at me – 2:44.  Perfect.

This is the part of the race where I thought the runner behind us might make a move, I decided to lock into our 3:00 min/pace per 1/2 mile and see where it took us.  The runner stayed right on my heels and by the sound of things it appeared that it was a two-man race.  Nobody had come with us.

At the one mile mark my watch beeped at me with a 3:05.  5:49 for the opening mile.  Two to go.

Mile 2:  Run even I thought, just run even and don’t look back.  As badly as I wanted to see what kind of lead I had, I did not want to give the High School Runner any feeling of confidence.  That I was “worried” about him back there.  He was in the ideal position.  I of course was not.  It takes a lot more energy to set the pace and run out front than just hang off of the shoulder of the runner in front of you and then surge past at the end of the race.  I knew that of course, but what made matters worse was the fact that I knew that he was well aware of that as well.

Water Stop - Pointing for cup

Water Stop – Pointing for cup

He was the hunter, I was the hunted – just like October of 2010.  The races were unfolding eerily similar.

3:05, 305 were the splits – 6:10 pace for mile two.  Time to make a move.

Time to go

Time to go

Mile 3:  We ran right through the finish line of the Harvest Fest Race and again I was reminded of how things went for me the last time I was in this position more than 2 years ago.  I noticed coming through the water stop that I had opened up a lead of :05 seconds or so.  As we made the left turn toward the switch back I surged.

Surging on the turn would give me an advantage as I thought that he would not notice my move as easily as he would on a straightaway.  By the time he knew what was going on, I would have the drop on him.  I sped up the switchback ramp and could look back at the runner without having to glance over my shoulder.  I bounded to the top and surged again.

Our pace over this 1/2 mile dropped to 3:17, but a solid :10 of that was coming from the switchback hill.

For the first time in the race I thought about winning.  I tried to push the thought off and just run smooth, but it was hard to do.  As we crested the final hill I could no longer hear any footsteps back there and I stole a quick glance.  He wasn’t there.

The final 1/2 mile came in at 2:58 pace.  Our second fastest 1/2 mile of the race.

As we approached the finish line to a smattering of cheer and “way to go!’s” – we slapped down an imaginary tape as Prefontaine would do at the end of his wins and it was over.

18:28, 1st place overall by :20 seconds.

Post Race:  These days are obviously not going to come around very often, maybe never again.  But it was comforting and very rewarding to know that given a second chance, we didn’t make the same mistakes twice.

Now we can move on to all the new mistakes we are bound to make in the next one 🙂


Posted: April 17, 2013 in Motivation

Sometimes you just know that you need to do something, even when you can’t really articulate exactly why.

Just a week ago if you asked me if I ever had plans to run another Boston Marathon I would have told you no.  It had nothing to do with Monday’s events or even the far-fetched notion that something like Monday was even possible, let alone likely.

I had simply been there and done that.  I wanted to look for new challenges, new opportunities to test my limits.  Different races, different goals.

Now if you ask me that question I’m inclined to say something much different.  In fact depending on timing should my Steamtown Marathon time be a “Boston Time” – which is fairly likely barring something unforeseen as my 45-49 year old qualifying standard is now 3:25:00 – and if registration for 2014 is still open after that race – some day may very well turn into next 362 days from now.

Landry and Dad - Post Race in Boston 2012

Landry and Dad – Post Race in Boston 2012

I’ve talked to a few runner friends and we all are saying the same thing.

The race next year is going to be run and it is going to be bigger and better than ever.  It is once again going to be a day of celebration in Boston and it is going to be an opportunity for the human spirit to conquer more than just 26 miles, 385 yards of road from Hopkinton to Boston.  It is going to be run for all the right reasons and there is a huge part of me who wants to be there.

Supporting our sport.  Supporting the families effected physically and emotionally from the devastation this week.  Supporting Boston and its tremendous citizens who treat “Boston Marathoners” of all shapes, sizes, talent levels, speed and ability like royalty on Marathon Monday.

Certainly things will be different next year and I can promise that there is no way that I would allow Dawn and Landry to be there standing around in the finish area no matter how many precautions are taken.  And there will be some major precautions.  I just can’t imagine struggling in Brookline with more than 5 miles to go to the finish worrying about the safety of my girls.

Just not going to happen.

If they make the trip, they can perhaps be hanging out in Wellesley or Kenmore Square or maybe they will just enjoy the city while Dad is off doing his thing and we will all connect after I run the finest 3/10 of a mile in road racing down Boylston Street the way I want to run every step of my Fall Marathon at Steamtown.


Doing anything but allows those responsible for such cowardly acts to “win” and that is just completely unacceptable.

More than likely it will just be me and my runner buddies who descend on Boston on a mission to help restore some sense of normalcy to a city and an event that is going to want that more than anything.  We have a long way to go between now and then and a lot of things that will need to happen to place us on Main Street in Hopkinton, MA next year.

That said, I can see it all falling into place for us to be there.  Fearlessly.

Who’s with me?

The Boston Marathon will never be the same, but for the families of the two people who were killed and the dozens who were injured at the finish line on Boylston Street – their lives are forever changed.

I can remember the first time I turned onto Boylston Street running perhaps the greatest 3/10 of a mile in road racing for Dom back in 2010.  Enjoying the spotlight, the rockstar treatment as spectators lined the street and yelled encouragement.  Those spectators make the pain that has manifested itself over the last 26 miles fade to the recesses of your mind and for at least a few moments, you feel whole again.

Those cheers fuel runners on when everything in their mind and bodies is screaming at them to stop.

It should be a celebration for so many.  Not only for the runners themselves, but for the families of those runners who put up with all the lunacy that goes along with training for an event like Boston.

The early nights to sleep.  The earlier alarm clocks on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Missing out on “fun things” as runners are preparing for their training runs and especially those 20 mile+ training runs.

I think of the marathons I’ve run to date and Dawn has been there at the finish line of every last one of them.

Waiting there patiently for me to finish.  Hoping to see me make the final turn and speed toward the finish line.  Never once did we ever worry about her safety or that of Landry who was at the finish line in Austin, New York and Boston in her first 2 years on the planet.

So today we are faced with a new reality.  Just as we were after 9/11.

It is times like these when you know making proclamations is a fools errand.  I’m going to run again.  Heck, I’m going to run tomorrow morning.

I’m going to race again and I’m going to run marathons again.  Boston III?  New York II?  Chicago?  Berlin?  All races that I pondered either making a return to or running for the first time such as Chicago or Berlin.  I’m just not sure that I want to put my loved ones in situations like that going forward.

It is a shame as I know that changing the way that you live your life after moments like these are exactly what terrorists want.  They want to create fear and chaos.  They want to strip away of freedom.  Rob us of those experiences.

As much as I don’t want to let that happen, or contribute to that response to what happened today in Boston – as a Husband and a Dad I need to take the long view here and make sure that I am making the right decisions that are best for everyone.  Boston is more than likely no longer in my future – which is truly sad.

For those families effected by the events of this afternoon – my heart goes out to you.  I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers here in Austin and tonight Landry will add you to her list of people she asks God to bless before drifting off to sleep in her big-girl bed.

As for the cowardly pieces of human garbage that are responsible for what took place today in Boston – I hope you get everything coming to you.  Karma is a bitch and I hope that it rains down on you with furious vengeance.  I wouldn’t waste a squirt of piss on you if you were on fire standing in front of me.

One of the, if not the, most celebrated foot races on the planet is happening right now while I sit here in Austin, TX half a country away from where all the “action” is this morning.  It’s funny how things change as in 2010 and 2012 I was mixing it up out there, fighting the good fight from Hopkinton to Boston.  The first year I ran Boston I had a second marathon looming just 13 days later running for Dom and his battle against cancer.

Last year the marathon Gods had a little bit of fun with us dropping 87 degree temperatures on race day and we simply trotted it in along the storied course.  Never really “racing”, just hanging tough in survival mode and gutting out a very pedestrian performance, but one that given the conditions on the course were just fine with me.

After finishing the race last year I think that I finally got “Boston” out of my system.

It’s an amazing event, attracting fabulous runners from all over the world and I am very proud to have been a part of the race not only once but twice.  But right now my focus is on more personal, measurable goals.  It is not important to me where I run my next marathon or next 2,3 or 5 – but how I run them.

I want to be fit, focused and fearless.  I want to prepare in such a way that I am in position to maximize every bit of my ability and channel it into a one-day performance where I peak for 180 minutes (or hopefully less) of racing.

Steamtown, Austin, CIM, Charleston, SC – the destination doesn’t really matter it is all about the journey.  A healthy outlook for a lot of things – racing aside.

This morning two runners who I have a ton of respect for are having a very different Boston Marathon Monday.

One is having surgery to address a nerve issue he has struggled with in his foot for well over a year and a half.  He is one of my best runner-buddies here in Austin and I have missed seeing him at runs and races over the last year+.  Although before his injury the only thing I saw of him at races quite often was the back of his shirt.  Brendon has a long history of thumping me pretty soundly in most local races in our age group.  But seeing him struggle with injury and knowing the lengths he is willing to go to get out there running healthy has been inspiring.

Physical Therapy, Active Release Therapy, Rest, Rehab, Acupuncture (seriously) – I’m pretty sure Brendon prayed to various tribal lords and even tried voodoo and witchcraft to get healthy.

If his surgery goes as expected, Brendon will be back to training in about 8 weeks and hopefully he and I can wage a few epic battles this fall and winter as Brendon 2.0 takes on Joe 3.0 as a pair of aging 46-year-old top age groupers.

I also thought about my friend Richard Blalock from Charleston, SC who is actually battling it out on the course today in Boston.  Richard a life-long runner who suffered an unfortunate accident when he was a young boy had a deteriorating condition that was making it impossible for him to run.

After exhausting ever method and treatment possible, Richard missed the sport so much that he had elective amputation so that he would be able to run again with a prosthetic leg.  Yep.  Elective surgery to remove the lower half of his leg so that he could run again.

Richard today is running Boston as a 60 year-old amputee runner – you can read about his journey at –

IIAGDTR stands for – It is a good day to run.

Yes it is Richard – congratulations on making it all the way back and to the grandest stage in the sport for an amateur runner.

So on Boston Monday – this everyman runner from Austin Texas is spending some time not thinking about my own journeys from Commonwealth Ave. to Hereford Street to Boylston Street.  But of a couple of friends who I wish the best for and hope that they are able to stay out there doing the best that they can as long as they want to.

In the end, that’s what it’s all about.  Fast or slow, it hurts just the same.  It’s just important to be out there giving your all and trying your best.

I’m going to remember that on October 13th up in Scranton, PA.  I have a feeling that is going to be a special morning.


One of the more interesting things I find about distance running is that there really  is no “best way” or “right way” to prepare for races universally.

Some runners thrive on high-mileage weeks where others break down or suffer from over-training.  Other runners focus on leg turnover, interval workouts or threshold pace runs but stay away from the “long stuff”.

Some race far better than they train, others are the exact opposite, where after posting impressive workout after workout come race day they leave their best running on their trail, treadmill or neighborhood and fail to deliver at their event.

Mental, Physical, Genetic Pre-disposition and Nutrition all play a role in how to best prepare a runner to reach their maximum potential.  “Working hard” is only a small piece of the puzzle, but it is the one that many of us focus on the most and assign the greatest value.

Perhaps that is because we think we have the greatest amount of control over the work ethic piece.  The fact of the matter is on Saturday morning quite a few of the 178 male finishers who “beat me” in Charleston, SC probably do not work as hard as I do at the sport.

Likewise, of the more than 35,000 runners we were fortunate enough to finish in front of – there are a large number who work harder than I do.

The hard work part is just a piece of the pie.  Focusing on the right workouts, creating the perfect “cocktail” to force positive adaptation is the goal in any well thought out and executed training program.

After seven years of training, running and racing I have finally come to the conclusion after reading Dr. Jack Daniel’s book “The Daniels Running Formula” – I am going to spend the next 2-3 years perfecting my own preparation for the 1/2 marathon and marathon.

On a cool day with good race conditions and a neutral course I can cover 13.1 miles in 83-84 minutes.  If I am able to improve my half-marathon time by just 1%, I will take :49 seconds off of my Half-Marathon PR and make me a 1:22:45 guy.  A very respectable time for a 45-46 year old runner.

That time of 1:22:45 would project to a Marathon time of 2:53:00-2:55:00 using the most widely accepted formulas that in a sense ask you to double your half-marathon time and add somewhere around 7:00 minutes.

1% improvement and we are in a position to accomplish all of the goals that we have out in front of us.

Reducing our 5K PR from 18:02 to sub 18:00 minutes.

Breaking 1:23:00 in the Half Marathon.

Breaking 3 Hours in the Marathon.


Having never been formally coached, having never had training partners or a peer group to lean on, learn from and push me to new levels – I think that is a very realistic goal and expectation to set.

Of course we are running in a race we cannot win against Father Time.  We may be losing 1% of our ability over the same period of time naturally, so the reality is we probably need to make a 2% improvement through our training and approach, while losing 1% to age and deterioration of our speed and endurance.

Even still, I like our chances for success.  For the first time in a long time I have a hard tangible goal out there that was not just arbitrarily chosen based on past performance or a round number such as 2:59:00 or 1:25, 5:00 flat or 18:00.

When you have a goal in front of you and you have a plan on how to get there, this is where that hard work piece comes back into play.  It is a matter of staying focused, running each and every workout with a specific purpose and pushing hard enough to put yourself in a position to be successful.

If you are able to do that, you are going to be pretty darn tough to deal with on race day.  Even the approaching heat of our impending Austin Summer is doing very little to dampen my spirit or determination right now.  Come October when Fall arrives to upstate Pennsylvannia, the leaves begin turning colors and there is a cool, crisp morning dawning over Scranton Pennsylvania there is going to be a slightly built, quiet Texan boarding a bus to the starting line of the Steamtown Marathon.

There will be very little distinguishing him from many of the 3,000 runners strapping on their race shoes that morning other than the quiet confidence that all the hard work and heavy lifting has already been done.

There will be little in the way of chatter or bravado.  No talk about race splits, mileage totals or how much hill work has been done in preparation.  Ear buds in, steely eyes on the road from the front of the bus downloading ever twist, turn, tangent and ripple on the road that he will be racing over in a couple of hours.

Race day.  October 13.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Saturday marked the 36th running of the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC.

Technically, I suppose the race “takes place” in Mt. Pleasant, SC as I spent just about 2 hours there waiting for the race to start, and a much shorter period of time racing through the streets of the Holy City.  But we are already getting way too far ahead of ourselves.  But on my final day racing as an “independent” or a self-coached runner, the racing Gods laid down an absolutely picture perfect day for a footrace.

Sunny skies, light winds, although high atop the Cooper River Bridge the breeze was slightly in the face of the runners and slightly from the right side of the course, 48 degree temperatures and 85% humidity.  The humidity was a little bit dicey, but that is what you get racing on the coast in April.

The CRBR is the 3rd largest 10 Kilometer race in the United States and the 7th largest in the world.

It’s big.

It is almost like running the Boston or NYC Marathons where you have an early rise to deal with, busses to line up for, a trip out to the starting area, a long wait to corral up, limited room for a proper warm-up and of course, a crowded course to navigate from start to finish.

The Pros:  For an amateur runner like most of us – you get the full rock star treatment.

The Cons:  For an amateur runner like most of us – there are a lot of variables to deal with which makes running a “great” race a lot tougher.

You have to sacrifice a little time on the clock for the “experience” of running a huge mega-race like the CRBR.  One or two of these events a year really can make road racing a lot of fun.  But if you are looking to run a PR or a smokin’ fast time.  This is not the type of event to do it in.

The other thing about the Cooper River Bridge Run is that it is not for the meek if you are going to really try to race it.  There is a famous saying that if a hill has it’s own name, it’s probably a pretty big hill.

Well if a race is named after a bridge.  Chances are the bridge is a pretty big one.  The Arthur Ravenel Bridge or “The Cooper” as it is referred to locally is a big bridge.  The climb from start to finish lasts just a tick over a full mile and rises 187 feet.  Yes it is steep, but man, it is long.  It is the long that gets to you in my view.

Cooper River Bridge

Cooper River Bridge

The incline is 4%, which is pretty nasty to do battle with at race pace.  But when it takes you a solid 7:00 minutes lets say to get over it, running at 6:00 flat effort it can really take it’s toll on you.  You then have the other side to run down, which further taxes your straining quads – and just when your breathing returns to normal and you start to feel a little better about things, you exit the bridge, make the hard 90 degree left turn onto Meeting street for two more miles of flat running.  The road may be flat, but it feels anything but when you come off of the downstroke of the bridge.  It feels just like yet another hill to climb.

Needless to say that our 37:30 10K PR was more than safe on Saturday morning.  I figured that if I added a full minute for the climb, and then :10 seconds a mile to the remaining miles (5) – we would have a 1:50 disadvantage.  That gave me a goal of 39:20 – if I could nail that time, I would call this a big win and declare myself “over” my injury from the winter.

My other goals were all pretty arbitrary in nature, but being my last race B.C. (Before Coach Carmen Troncoso) – I wanted to make it a little fun:

1.     Break 39:20

2.     Break the top 200 Male Finishers.

3.     Age Group (finish in the top 5% of my age group up to 25).

4.     Be the fastest Texan.

I had a feeling that If goal number one was met, the others had a darn good chance of falling into place.CRBR Bib

Pre-Race:     I set the alarm clock for 4:15 a.m. for the 8:00 a.m. gun.  Man, that is early.  I got to the bathroom, took care of all the usual tooth brushing and face washing business and decided on a very quick shower to get the muscles loose under some hot water.  I decided that by race time shorts and a singlet would be all we would need, and to avoid any post-race complications I would not check a dry bag.

I purchased some sweat pants and a hideous Orange Clemson Sweatshirt at TJ Maxx on Friday to wear to the start that I would discard just prior to the gun and allow the local charity to receive my fresh clothes for those less fortunate.  As a South Carolina Graduate it pretty much killed me to be rocking the Clemson Orange, but staying warm was far more important to me and the sweats did the job.

I carried a couple of bagels, a Gatorade and a water with me and would be racing to Charleston with my gloves tucked in the waistband of my shorts.  All of this worked out perfectly.

I parked on the west side of the course about 3 blocks from the busses and took a nice leisurely trot up to the staging area downtown.  I met a 60 year-old runner named Fred from Hilton Head and we rode to the start together chatting away about running, racing and goals for the day.  A 2:40 Marathoner “back in the day” – Fred was still a top age-grouper in the area and I was sure he was going to run a great race on Saturday.  We talked a lot about marathoning and working with a coach.  He like so many before him said to me, “Joe, you are a sub 3 hour marathoner with your ability to run a sub 1:24 half on multiple occasions, you just need it to all come together for you on race day ….”

One of these days I am going to prove all of these folks right.  Hopefully October 13, 2013 at Steamtown.

We hopped off the bus and made the long walk to the corrals.  I found a nice quiet picnic table at a small park to sit on and stretch, chatted with a  few runners, had breakfast and as the sun rose over Mt. Pleasant, I took a short 1-mile warm-up run 30 minutes before go time.

I hit the porta-potty, stretched some more and with 15 minutes to go and people were starting to fill the corrals I went for another 1/2 mile warm-up with some strides mixed in to mimic ramping up to race pace.  I ducked into the Seeded Corral with 800 or so of my new friends, just behind the professionals from Kenya, Russia, S. Africa, Egypt and a handful of top Americans and peeled off my sweats.  My legs felt great, I was very relaxed.  Maybe a little bit too relaxed and I cozied up behind a group of runners that looked just about “right” for my target pace.

The Start:     The announcer counted us down to the start, staged us just behind the mat and with a “Runners, to your marks!  Horn!” we were off.  We ran under the large start scaffolding and screamed down Coleman Boulevard toward the bridge.  I ran the first 400 and settled in nicely, I felt as if I was running just a hair under 6:00 min./mile pace and glanced down at my watch.

Time of day.

I hit the start button as I crossed the mat, but for some reason it was not recording the run.  Garmin error.  Happens to the best of us.  I pressed the satellite portion of the dial and my watch began the process of triangulating my position.  I was running blind.

Something that would have bothered me a couple of years ago, I really never batted an eye.  I decided I would wait until the first mile sign, press start there and get an accurate picture of the final 5 miles of the race.  No big deal, just spin up and run easy.  As we approached the first mile sign I was curious to see how our pacing was.  I hit the line in 5:53, meaning that I ran an opening split right at 5:51 pace given the :02 it took us to cross the mat +/-.  Maybe :04 seconds faster than I had been hoping for, but nothing that was going to harm our race.  Dialed in Joe.  Go get that bridge.

I backed off the pace just a bit to load up for the climb ahead and ticked off the second mile in 6:05 – solid.  we made the slight switch from the right side of the street across three lanes to the left, ran a tangent onto the exit ramp to Mount Pleasant (running against the normal direction of driving traffic) and started to pick our way up the hill.  I decided to stay even, no extra effort, but no backing off either.  Let the 4% incline slow our pace, but keep the intensity identical.  In my view the most economical way to tackle a hill.

I glanced once at my watch and it was tracking us at 7:11 pace up the incline, we were giving away a little bit north of 1 minute per mile pace to the bridge, which had us just about spot on our goal pace.  But the incline seemed to be stretching forever.  I found a runner to run next two and we stayed lockstep in pace to the top.  we finally reached the large crown of the bridge, which lasts a good 200 meters longer than you think it would to reach the absolute apex.  We reached the 3-mile flag and I made a conscious effort not to back off.  Just stay even and lock back in – you are running perfect I thought to myself.

Half-Way Point:     As I passed the 3.1 mile clock the time read 19:53.  I needed to run the second half of the race in just a hair under 19:30 and we were home, goal time met by the slimmest of margins.  My mind flashed back to the last time I had not broken 19:30 in a stand alone 5K and I could not draw it from my recesses.  Finally I had to go back all the way to my first Holland, TX Cornfest 5K in 2009.  On a 85 degree hot June morning I ran a 19:43 to take 1st place in my Age Group.  All I needed was a 19:30 from here on out.  It wasn’t going to be a cake-walk by any means, but it was absolutely something we were capable of.  Just keep pushing.

Downtown:     we came off of the bridge and made the left turn onto Meeting Street with drums sounding from one of the local High Schools, I decided to grab a quick splash of water to wet my lips and I powered up Meeting Street toward the College of Charleston.  My legs were starting to feel very heavy and I knew the bridge had done what it is designed to do.  Sap your strength.  I focused on form, stopped looking at the road in front of my feet as I had done climbing up the bridge so I wouldn’t be intimidated by how much bridge was left and I fixed my eyes directly on the horizon.  Head perfect and still, breathing in rhythm, form smooth, light on my feet and I could barely hear my flats hitting the road.  I was still running strong.  Just needed to hang on to that last mile.

I can do anything for a mile.

We hit the mile 5 sign and I did some quick math in my head.  I was running at 6:18 pace and had not wavered over the last mile+.  One more identical mile, hit the left turn on to Wentworth street with 2/10 to go and surge.  Hit the left turn back on to Meeting Street and Kick.  Race = Over.

I was running alongside a taller, younger runner stride for stride as we took King Street across Calhoun.  I looked over at him and said a single word that I knew he would relate to.  I simply said, “Hurting”.

He replied with a, “Got This”. and on we went stride for stride.

There is something about race crowds when they see two runners battling it out at the end of a race.  No matter how far back they are, the spectators can identify with the very primitive battle of wills taking place.  Tall runner vs. short runner, young runner vs. old(er) runner.  Who is going to give in first.

As we passed the thickening crowd we were getting shouts from the sidewalk, it fueled us both on and just before the left turn to Wentworth Street I got ready to tangent on the inside and decided to surge just a few strides early.  I moved away from the runner on my right and in a moment that makes racing so interesting, he had no response.  He was flat out at that point and I had been holding just a little bit back.

It is something that you never know about the runner next to you, ahead of you or immediately behind you.  Who has something left?  Will it be me today or will it be them?  If you ask me the one thing I love most about racing – that is honestly it.  In the most basic terms, who is willing to hurt more?  On Saturday it was me.

I dropped him on Wentworth, slid past another runner at the turn onto King Street and with 1/10 of a mile left we dipped down to 5:40 pace, a place we had not been for almost 6 miles, but it was nice to see that it was still there.  A final kick to the finish and the announcer said to the crowd, “We’ve got some strong closing kicks here to the finish, and all the way from Austin, Texas …. Joe Marruchella”.

Finish:     After running a 19:51 first 5 kilometers, we needed a 19:29 to make our time.  We ran a 19:27.

Goal time of 39:20.  Race time of 39:18.

Goal of finishing in the top 200 Male Runners – Number 179.

Goal of Age Grouping – Met placing 8th among Men 45-49 years old.

Goal of being the fastest Texan – Met by more than :30 seconds.

I would call that a clean sweep of the list we put together prior to the race.  To be completely honest I am most proud of being able to run a smart, strategic and well put together race.  It may have been one of the 3 or 4 best executed races I have ever run.  Not the fastest of course, but we knew that was going to be the case before we ever boarded our flight from Austin to Charleston.  But for our final race as a self-coached runner, I am really happy to go out this way.  I don’t have a lot of “what if’s” or “I hoped this or that” – I can put this one in the book, place it on the shelf and start a brand new chapter when I get back to Austin.

To coach Carmen, I am fired up, healthy and ready to go.  I know that you work with a lot more talented runners than I and that you certainly work with runners who are much faster than I will ever be.  But I am ready to work hard, do anything and everything you say and on race day I am willing to put it all on the line for the both of us.

We’re certainly going to have our wins and losses, our ups and downs, that is just the nature of the sport.  But put me in a position with a mile to go on October 13th to make it happen and I promise I will not let you down.  Let’s get this party started.

It is often and rather famously said, that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. The proverb applies more to life in general than it does to the sport of distance running, but as running in many ways is a perfect metaphor for life, the principle applies.

Since 2011 I have set more goals than the typical 45 year old guy walking around on the planet. I’m a keenly aware of that fact. Amazingly I have been able to plan the work, work the plan and reach or exceed every one of those goals on my list when it comes to distance running with the exception of one.

I am not the most talented runner, this is a fact not opinion. I have to work extremely hard at the sport and earn every second that I take off of the race clock. For others it comes much easier. That is not to say that I am complaining. I think most coaches would rather work with an athlete that works hard, is dedicated and is willing to put in the hours and suffer the pain to get as close as possible to their potential.

While other runners may have more natural ability, they are not willing to pay the price in reaching their full potential – or ever really approaching it. Good enough is simply good enough, and that is as far as they are willing to push themselves.  I’m not about to start preaching about the virtues of trying hard and failing vs. using your natural talents to succeed. Trust me, it is all about the succeeding piece for me. It is about race day, goal setting and goal achievement. I don’t publish my weekly training mileage and carry it around like some badge of honor. It’s simply the means to an end.

I train to run races. Period. End-game.

As I write this I am sitting on a United Airlines flight – seat 12B to be exact – on my way to South Carolina for the 2013 Cooper River Bridge Run. Myself and 39,999 entrants will be toeing the line Saturday morning and testing our metal at an incredibly difficult 10 Kilometer Race that spans an enormous bridge, usually combats strong headwinds and will push each of our limits.
It is our first large race of 2013 after a brief set-back to start the year due to injury, but as of right now we are just about 95% all the way back to our peak fitness in December. It simply is a matter of continuing to get our miles in, rebuild our stamina and endurance to the previous standard. The body is fine, the mind and spirit are there, we’re just tuning up the engine a little bit more. It’s a process, but one that is nearing completion.

But this race is the end of an era for me as it will be my final race as a self-coached runner.

On Wednesday I had lunch with a tremendous coach in Austin who has worked with many of the runners I compete against at local events for several years. She is in her own right a tremendously talented runner, now nearing age 50, and has forgotten more about running, training and racing than I will probably ever know.

I have come to the conclusion that I have at best three more race seasons to run my best ever marathon. Whether that means 2:59, 2:55, 3:02 I really have no idea. That is what we are about to find out.

But I simply cannot keep doing the same things over and over again and expect a different result.

Instead I am willing to admit that I need a little help to get over that final goal that I have been carrying around with me since the Austin Marathon in 2011. I want to run a marathon in less than 180 minutes. In fact, I would trade every Age Group Award, finisher’s medal, PR, ribbon and trophy I have ever been fortunate enough to acquire to find myself with one more mile to go at the Steamtown Marathon on October 13th and 6 minutes, 52 seconds to get there.

I am willing to scratch, claw, fight, hurt and bleed to do it.

But pushing hard on race day has never been our problem. There is plenty of fight left in this old dog.  It is in the approach to getting to that position through training where I have not been able to dial things in perfectly at the marathon distance. A race where the smallest of errors are magnified significantly, where heart, guts and hard-work can only take a runner so far.

I need an edge. A new weapon in my arsenal. Someone who is going to simply tell me what to do and when to do it. Someone that will watch me run two times a week – providing a set of eyes that can step outside of my own head and tell me if I am pushing hard enough, need to back off, need to change up our training strategy – and finally, someone who one week before Steamtown is going to give me an honest number to shoot for on race day that is not one that I have arbitrarily self-selected to define me.

Whatever that number is, is the number we are going to go get. If it is 3:03 or 2:59 or 2:56 – I am willing to go out on race day and make it happen. But it is going to be based on more than my own definition of “excellence” – it is going to be based on her years of experience coaching athletes, predicting race-day potential and pushing athletes to the edge of the cliff and then pulling them back just in time before they risk injury or a flat performance.

The final piece of the puzzle is I am going to have training partners for the first time ever. There are reasons why the top distance runners train in groups – providing someone to push you in workouts, someone to help you suffer through grueling sets of repeats and intervals. My good runner friends Andy and Scott are both part of this training group. There have been race days that I have run with them, others when they have run away from me and the rare performance where I’ve been able to hang on and beat them.

Well now perhaps we can work together and push each other to new personal bests and times that to this point have seemed untouchable. What do they know that I do not? What can I learn from them? Is there really more inside of me that I just have not realized or tapped into? All great questions.

I used to feel as if accomplishing my goal time in the marathon by myself and not with the help of others was going to somehow legitimize it more. I’m not sure where that notion formed in my mind, or why it did, but it has definitely been a part of my runner psyche for some time.

The reality is that without the help of my swim coach there is absolutely zero chance of me completing last Fall’s Half Ironman. ZERO chance. Trust me, I was there when I tried to swim my first 25 meters, you were not. When I say zero, I might actually be overestimating my chances.

Without my friend Ed’s advice and the help of the guys at Austin Tri Cyclist to fit me for my bike, put me in the right gear and help with nutrition, there is no way I ride a 2:38 bike split over 56 miles and podium in Kerrville.

The run part? O.K., that was all me last year. But it is time for that to change.

So this weekend when we toe the line in Charleston I am going to take a moment to run my fingers over Dom’s initials on my shoes like I always do and think about all of the races we’ve run together since he got sick back in the spring of 2009. I guess I really never was truly alone out there in the end.

We just recruited another member to the team this week Dom. So what if we need a little bit of help to get to that point at Steamtown this Fall. That is still going to be the greatest mile I will have ever run, win, lose or draw.
26 weeks to race day. 6 months to make it all come together. Time to go to work.