Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

There is a level of “certainty” in an uncertain world that draws a particular type of person to our sport.

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this on my “easy 8” this morning on the trail, counting off the things that I love about running instead of miles.

When you draw a pair of lines in the ground or on the road, set a clock to all zeros and fire the starter’s pistol the sport becomes extraordinarily simple.  Attempt to move your body across both sets of lines in the least amount of time possible.  Everything else is just noise.

My mind wandered from city to city, race to race.  Boston to Denver, Austin to Virginia Beach, New York to Dallas, Charleston to Pittsburgh, Philly to Houston.  5K’s to half-marathons, 10 K’s and 10-milers to Marathons and I was able to visualize the final stretch to the finish line of literally dozens and dozens of events.  Some performances were epic.  Some quite ordinary.  But all of them weave the very fabric of the runner that I have become.

The thing that struck me along the darkened trail, absent even a sliver of moon this morning is that my mind was completely free.  Never once did I think about how far I had run to that point, how far I had to go, whether I was on pace, slightly ahead or slightly behind.  My mind was 100% free from those thoughts and it was one of the more enjoyable summer runs in the Texas heat I can remember.

The reason my mind was so clear is that I was enjoying another “naked” run.  Now before your mind leaps to a bad place, we’ve covered this before on the blog, by “naked” I simply mean watchless.  I still had my runderwear, shorts, socks and Kinvara’s on.  Just no timing device and of course no shirt, which will remain that way pretty much up until late October or early November.

When I started my Pre-Austin Marathon training schedule, a simple 10-week ramp up to October 14 when we log our first training miles for Austin, I decided that I would run without my Garmin 610 GPS watch ever single mile until the end of September.  So far so good as I’ve logged just shy of 100 miles without really “counting” any of them.

A few weeks before marathon training truly begins I will head to the track and start to sprinkle in some speed work, which of course will require measured distances and pace.  To prepare for battle on race day in Austin on February 15th I will absolutely need to “know” that I can tick off 12 400’s in 1:21 on 100 meters rest just as I will need to “know” that I can hold a 12-mile tempo run sub 6:40 if I hope to reach my potential on race day.

There is plenty of time for all of that.

But for now, I’m simply lacing up the shoes on my run days with an assigned distance to make sure I am building my base properly and I’m hitting my known routes to tick off the miles.

One of the things I am enjoying most these days is deciding on the run whether I want to add a particular turn, section of the trail or neighborhood loop to my runs.  Do I want to run a few extra hills this morning?  Would I rather run the flats and push effort a bit to work on turnover?  Should I tack on the climb over the dam or just loop back through the lower trail back home?

All of these decisions are made on the fly.  So what if my 7 miler becomes 7.34?  Or if I decide that I’m going to run 8 today and 6 tomorrow instead of the 7 and 7 on my schedule?  I am making choices now that I would rarely if ever decide to make during a training cycle?  I mean what kind of type-A, borderline obsessive/compulsive marathoner would finish a run with an extra .34 miles on his or her watch?  We would absolutely stretch it out to .50 miles at a bare minimum.  Anyone worth their salt of course would run the full .66 additional miles to end with a nice neat round number in their training log.

See where I’m going with this?

If you need to recharge your batteries a bit and fall back in love with running.  Leave the watch on the counter for a week and see how it feels.

Better yet, try it for 2. I have to tell you it took some getting used to, but I am rediscovering my love for running just for the sake of it.  For climbing hills because they are there and for running fast because I feel like it.

When it is time to flip the switch in October, make no mistake, that switch will be flipped.  The only difference is I am going to be mentally recharged and ready to count each and every last one of those 946.60 miles that will take us through the finish line on February 15th.

And I plan on crushing every last one of them.

Run on people.

Dom –

I am having a very hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we lost you to cancer 4 years ago today.  I can remember the last time we spoke by phone like it was yesterday.  I remember where I was sitting, what I was wearing and what you told me about how amazing it was going to be to be a little girl’s Daddy.  Here we are four years later, Landry is now just about the same age that Sierra was when we last spoke that summer and I have a walking, talking, hugging, smiling and sometimes challenging reminder of everything you told me.  Being a Dad is everything you said it was going to be Dom and more.

You didn’t warn me about the Princess stuff though.  I could have used a few pointers there, but I’ll let that one slide as I know you had a lot going on at that point with your own little girl and your son Nico.

On Sunday I was in the kitchen going through one of my rituals before any training cycle, making gravy.

You know the drill, meatballs, Italian sausage, beef, pork, braciole and enough gravy to last me between 10 and 12 pasta dinners that will take us through all of our long run workouts and race day.

So I’m in the kitchen, stirring the pot to keep the sauce from burning and keeping all the meat and vegetables from sticking to the bottom and Landry comes into the kitchen.  She looks at my shirt and says, “What’s that Daddy” and I was wearing my “Run for Dom” T-shirt that Howie’s company made for us back in 2010.

Where do you start a story like that one I thought.  So I knelt down, gave her a big hug and told her that the shirt reminded me of a good friend of mine who is in Heaven now and that when she got a little older I would tell her stories about him.

I’ve got to tell you Dom, we are still missing you like crazy down here.  I’m still lacing up the shoes in the morning, ticking off the miles and not a single run goes by without me thinking about you.  Wednesday morning a gift showed up on my doorstep with a 66 degree morning, no wind and close to a full moon.  I tacked on an extra mile for you at the end of the run, thinking about 8/15 as well as how much ground we have to cover before we are ready to kick-off Austin Marathon training on October 14.

This morning I was in Atlanta for work and even though it was technically a rest day, I took the stems out for a little tour of downtown Atlanta.

It’s been awhile Dom since I’ve been this excited about a training cycle.

Probably Houston or Big Cottonwood and we know how those races went – or didn’t go actually as we had to pull out due to injury.

But I’ve got a feeling that we’re doing all the right things this time Dom and getting back to basics:

1.  A long base building period.

2.  5 Run days per week, 2 complete rest days.

3.  Quality over quantity like we did for our races in Boston, NYC, Austin and Pittsburgh in previous years.

Come February Dom we are going to be ready to eat lightning and crap thunder.  I learned a lot about myself at Ironman Texas – and most of those lessons spell bad news for the Austin Marathon.

On a day where I feel a little bit lost and the questions far outnumber the answers – it was really nice to have you out there with me as the sun was coming up in Georgia pointing me the way.

Thank you Dom, we love and miss you.



A few of my athlete friends told me in the weeks leading up to Ironman Texas that after that race, you would never be the same again.

That after Ironman, I was going to feel different, look at challenges differently, have a shift in focus, refined clarity.

After 2 months of enjoying some downtime in June and July, running when I felt like it, riding the bike a bit, a couple of easy swims I have reached that point.

What I have realized is that at the end of the day, I’m a marathoner.

I might not necessarily be a great one.  And in fact, there is strong evidence that I am a much better middle distance runner (10K, 10M, half-marathon), but at the end of the day, that is who I am.

With the four-year anniversary of us losing Dom staring me in the face – (8/15/10 – RIP) – I decided that I wanted to get back to basics, set aside the distractions of being a part-time triathlete/Ironman and get ready to train in a serious way for this year’s hometown Austin Marathon.austin-marathon-600x399

Specificity and consistency are the two things that build a strong runner in my view.  It has always been that way for me.  When I have been able to stay injury free and stick to my schedule of Monday off, Tuesday Easy, Wednesday Hard, Thursday Easy, Friday off, Saturday Quality, Sunday Long I have been a very dangerous runner on race day.

So we’re going to go back into the shop for the rest of August and September.  Get back to our 5 run day, 2 off day schedule and build our base back to the point where we are bullet-proof heading into the 18 week training cycle for Austin.

I haven’t worn my watch all week on my runs and I am not going to put it on until after Labor Day.  I’m running entirely by feel, covering my known routes where I do not need to track each individual mile.  I’ve worn ruts in the streets and trails around our home in Austin.  I know exactly which routes are 5 miles, 6.2 miles, 8.3 miles, 10, 12 and 16.  The combination of those routes provides me with every single distance necessary to complete marathon training from 10 kilometer threshold runs, 8 mile easy days, mid-week medium-long runs and Sunday long days all the way up to 22 miles.

I spent the last few days putting together my training plan and have the 90 workouts aligned in our calendar that will take us from October 14th up to race day on the 15th of February.  There are some rather big days sprinkled throughout that cycle and realizing that we are now in our 47th year on the planet, recovery and rest is going to be more critical than ever to staying healthy and toeing the line at the Freescale Marathon 100% ready to rumble.  It is going to require the occasional vacation day from work to recover after a hard mid-week threshold workout of 12-14 miles at 6:39 pace, but that is just fine.  We’ll make the time.

The question looming out there is can we throw down a best-ever marathon time 8 1/2 years after our first one?  It will be 4 years since we ran Austin back in 2011 and a little more than 3 years since we ran our current PR in NYC.

The answer as of today is, I’m not really sure.  In the coming months that picture is going to come into focus.  I do know this, if we are able to put together a solid cycle, stay healthy and remain determined to put ourselves in the best possible position on race day – the results will be there.

If we get a nice cool morning and no wind, maybe even that elusive sub 3 hour marathon is out there in front of us.  If not, can we PR?  I’d be pretty darn happy with that.  An Austin Marathon course PR which would require a 3:15 flat?  That would be fine.  A Boston time of sub 3:25:00?  Barring a disastrous race, we should be able to throw that down fairly comfortably .

But that’s the thing about going for it in the marathon vs. other race distances.  A small miscalculation in a 10K may cost you :30 seconds.  In a half-marathon, you may fade late and lose a minute to a minute and a half.  The difference between running to your potential in the marathon and finishing :20 minutes behind your goal time is actually razor-thin.  Those last 10 kilometers after mile 20 is when the marathon actually begins.

How you get to mile 20 will define your race more than every other variable.

Fitness, health, nutrition, hydration, your mental toughness, course conditions, the weather – it all comes together in a perfect storm on marathon day.

That’s what makes it such a remarkable event.  That’s what makes it worth going back to.

That’s what makes me a marathoner.

I know that we have one more great race in us.  Time to prove it.


90 hours to race day.  A place we’ve been almost 100 times before.

Big races, small races, long races and short races.

International Marathons.  Local 5K’s.

Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Denver, Charleston, Virginia Beach.  The list goes on and on.

But this one I have to admit has me feeling as uncertain as I did back on November 19th, 2006 as we were getting ready for our first ever marathon.  I remember thinking before the race that I knew what I had gotten myself into.  That my training had prepared me.  That once the gun went off, all of the nerves would go away and we would be fine.  Surely at some point things would get challenging, but we would be able to push through and finish.

I was right in some ways.  Wrong in others.

In fact, I had absolutely no idea how high the highs would lift me and how low the lows would drag me.

That race made me the runner that I would become.  Without it, there are no New York City 3:o8’s or Boston Marathon Finishes X2 in my pocket.

Which brings us basically full circle getting ready for Ironman Texas.

One of the things about Ironman training is that it provides you a lot of time to think.  Long swims, long bikes, long runs all done for the most part by yourself.  No matter how confident an athlete you are, no matter how much work you put in or how many workouts get skipped due to illness, injury or life simply conspiring against your training – I don’t think you really “know” how it is going to turn out until you are approaching that finishing chute on the marathon.  Instead you play scenarios over in your mind and hope that on race day a few of those play out in your favor.

It is what makes this type of race so life affirming and exciting.

It is also what makes it pretty darn uncomfortable at times.

I’m not going to use the word afraid, as I think that is thrown around a little too often in situations like this one.

Do I have concerns?  Certainly.

Are the first 10 minutes of this race going to be one of the most uncomfortable and stressful situations as an athlete I have ever been in?  Absolutely.

Packing over 2,800 athletes into a narrow lake, firing a cannon and having them all swim off to a single Buoy a mile away is not exactly a peaceful situation.  There are going to be elbows flying, people are going to be swimming on top of me, pushing my feet down as I try to kick to the surface, splashing water in my face, nose and mouth as I rotate out for a breath.  It is going to be a good old fashioned street fight until we can get some clear water.

I’ve worked hard on my eight 2.5 mile Open Water Swims to stay calm, fluid, concentrate on the things I can control.  My strokes, my breathing and my sighting.  Everything else is just background noise.  I need to filter it out.  Push it out of my mind.  Concentrate on what I have to do and not worry about anybody else.

Saturday is going to be a long, long day.  Close to 6 hours on the bike more than likely, 4 hours on the marathon course if we are fortunate and the weather cooperates.  The 1 hour and 18 minute swim +/- is just a warm-up, it needs to be treated as such and I am going to try my best not to lose it out there and burn precious energy fighting over a 2’X6′ area of water.

Once we get out of the water, I am going to keep repeating my race day mantra.

Move with a sense or purpose.

Act with a sense of urgency.

Keep moving forward.

The Bike course will prove to be much flatter than anything we have trained on.  That is a fact.  1,100 feet of elevation change spread over 112 miles is 1/2 as hilly as our 50 mile route that we train on.  The hills should not be an issue.

The wind however will most certainly be.  By the time we make the turn “for home” at the top of the bike course, 55 miles in, we are going to have head winds and cross winds to deal with for the next 40+ miles.  Somewhere in the 10-15 mph range.  Not good.

The wind can really sap your energy, but it also can break your spirit.  You pedal furiously and watch your speed drop from a comfortable 20-22 mph down to 14.5 and there is no escaping it.  The only way through it is to keep moving forward.

I am going to use that time to focus on our nutrition, drinking every :10 minutes, sports beans every :30 minutes, salt tablets every :45 minutes, stinger waffle every hour.  If we keep up that pace we should be taking in around 320 calories per hour and be right where we want to be coming off of the bike.  Barring a flat tire, something mechanical or some sort of injury/soreness – we should get off our QR CD.01 around the 5:45-5:50 mark.

Then it is marathon time.

Our time.

9’s off of the bike, 8:45’s as long as we can keep ticking them off (I’m betting about 15 of them) and then someone is going to throw a bagful of hammers on our back.  I know it is going to happen, it is a matter of when not if.  High 80 degree temperatures, dripping wet, feet sloshing, blisters likely, muscles in full-on revolt.

Keep moving forward.

I’ve always been big on visualization during the final stages of the marathon.  Imagine yourself making the last turn, entering the chute, seeing the finish line bounce into view, pick out faces in the crowd, thank them for being there to root the athletes home.  Try to spot Dawn, now Dawn and Landry.  Imagine how great it is going to feel to be able to stop.

Only this time there will be an extra boost as we approach the finish line, the words of Mike Riley calling out, “Joe Marruchella, You. Are. An. Ironman”.

Just like the pain that is going to come during the marathon.  It is not a question of if.  Only when.

On to Houston.



Mark Twain

Posted: March 24, 2014 in Motivation

To borrow a quote from the great Mark Twain – “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In fact as my friends have been reaching out via social media posting on my Facebook wall, sending me tweets and e-mailing me here at Run for Dom, I began to feel a bit like old Mark Twain must have as my endurance athlete friends wondered aloud just what happened to Joe?

Well the honest answer is I have been searching a bit over the last few months.

The past few training cycles leading up to the Houston Marathon and then Big Cottonwood I got ever so close to the starting line – just two weeks before the taper in both cases – only to wind up injured and unable to race.  The disappointment in both of those marathon training cycles “gone bad” left me not only disappointed and hurt (mentally and physically), but I started to wonder if I ever was going to get the chance to celebrate another race day at an “A” event.

So as Ironman Texas training started I made a deal with myself.

I was not going to get too high or too low.  Ironman requires a similar approach on race day.

I was going to shut things down from a social media perspective, not talk about every swim, bike and run.  Not chronicle the journey every step of the way as I know that while the support I have gotten over the years has fueled me to reach some pretty lofty goals, it also put an amount of pressure on me to meet expectations.  Or at least the expectations that I thought my friends, followers and even Dom had for me.

If something were to happen to me again along this journey to Ironman, I didn’t want to let everyone down again and talk about another missed opportunity.  Perhaps I was hoping that by changing a variable in my training, I would change the outcome and have an injury free training cycle.

Maybe it was superstition or karma, kismet – I don’t know, but I felt like I would just keep this cycle to those closest to me.  My wife, daughter, and training partners and the occasional morning when I would check-in with Dom and ask him to push me out the door, onto the saddle or into the pool.

A funny thing happened over the past few months.

It worked.

On Saturday morning I climbed onto our Quintana Roo CD0.1 with nothing but 100 miles ahead of us.  Our first century ride.  5 1/2 hours later, we had our 100 in the books and felt pretty darn good doing so closing with a few miles in the 21-22 mph range.

Sunday I decided to run without my GPS watch, just like the old days I glanced at the oven clock when I walked out the door and glanced at it again when I returned.  I focused on effort and not pace, knocking out my long run in 7:30 pace +/-.  Much faster than our goal of 8:30/mile for Ironman Texas.

Then tonight I dropped into the pool after a long day at work and swam for an hour straight with no breaks, 20 minutes +/- shorter than what our Ironman swim will take us on race day God willing.

With 7 weeks to go until race day I am exactly where I want to be – it feels like we are not quite at our best, but we are getting stronger and stronger every week.

Instead of the past few marathon cycles where I was “trained” 2 months out and just tried to be “extra ready” for race day – foolish in hindsight – I am trying to peak for one day and one day only.  May 17, 2014.  I do not care about being ready the week before or the week after.  Only for that one moment in time.

That’s what life is.  Just individual moments strung together that presents the illusion that they are somehow connected.  But living in the moment and for the moment is really what it is all about when it comes to taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

In 3 weeks I will be heading down to New Orleans for Ironman 70.3 (Half-Ironman) – nothing more than a dress rehearsal for Ironman Texas 4 weeks later.

Everything that day is going to be done in preparation for Ironman.  What I eat the night before the race, what I have for breakfast, my race kit, socks, shoes, nutrition, suntan lotion, helmet and glasses.  Everything identical.  No surprises.

Time in New Orleans is irrelevant – all I want to do is dial-in my nutrition plan, dial in the bike with my race wheels and gearing – make absolutely certain that our equipment and body are functioning as one.  I won’t be chasing our Half-Iron PR of 5;07.  In fact if I get within :20 minutes of that mark I am going to be fairly angry at myself.  The worst thing I can do at Ironman Texas is to “start racing”.  I need to stay within myself.  Swim easy, bike smooth, run smart.

I remember back to my first marathon where I honestly doubted if I could cover the 26.2 mile distance.  3 hours, 58 minutes and 8 seconds later I was a marathoner.  It was my slowest marathon by quite a large margin.  Even the second marathon I ran for Dom 13 days after Boston was more than :20 minutes faster.  But one thing I remember vividly about Philly in 2006 is that while the race was unfolding I stopped caring about my time around mile 12.  All I wanted to do is finish – time was irrelevant.

On May 17th I will run another marathon.  Only this time my warm-up will be a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride.

I have a few goals for Ironman Texas.  I suspect that by the time I get on the run course, I won’t care about any of them.  The only thing that will matter is that I didn’t give up and I made it to the finish line.  I have played the scenario over and over in my mind as I finally enter that .25 mile long finishing coral lined with fans, supporters and family members who have not only cheered for hours and hours on race day for the Ironman Triathletes who have taken on the 140.6 mile race course, but have supported “Their Athletes” for months leading up to the race.  Popping blisters, rubbing sore muscles, cooking meals, taking care of chores and holding down the fort while their loved one put in the time, the effort, the miles to prepare for that 1/4 mile finishing chute.

I am going to look those spectators in the eyes and thank them.

I am going to slap every child’s hand on the way to the finish line.

I am going to revel in the moment.

I am going to listen for Chris Reilly (the voice of Ironman) to call out to the crowd:

“Joe Marruchella, you. are. an. Ironman.”

I am going to collect my hugs and share some tears with Dawn and Landry and I am going to walk gingerly away from these moments.

The sport of running and triathlon has given me more than I ever could have expected or deserved.  A sense or purpose, inspiration and motivation.  Great friendships.  Some very happy post-race feelings of accomplishment.  The occasional feeling of utter failure and defeat.  I have a lifetime of memories not only of race days, but of full-moon morning runs on dark trails and sunrises that God seemed to place there just for me to see.  It provided a vehicle to bring people together when Dom was battling cancer and helped raise money for Sierra and Nico’s educations.

I don’t want to paint a picture that after Ironman is over I am never going to race again.  I think that would be foolish – as I’ve learned to never say never.  Especially after saying that I would NEVER train for Ironman.  But they say that you are never the same after Ironman.  That it changes your outlook on our sport and on many things in your life.

But I will say this – I have found the joy again in running easy.  Not worrying about every single mile split and if I am getting “faster” or “slower”.

I know that May 17th is not going to be all unicorns and rainbows.  It is honestly going to be the most difficult day of my life as an endurance perspective.  Most people can’t run 2.4 miles, let alone swim them.  They don’t like to drive 100 miles, let alone bike 112 of them.  And certainly out of the less than 1% of the population that has run a marathon – very few of them would consider doing so after combining those two “warm-up events”.

It is going to hurt and I am going to want to quit at some point.

But I am not going to.  Quitting just isn’t an option.

That is why the finish area is lined with spectators from 9 hours after the cannon fires to start the mass-swim start at 7:00 a.m. up until Midnight when the final finishers struggle to finish under the 17 hour time limit.  Watch footage of an ironman finish on youtube and you will start to get it.  Witness it first hand and it is something you will never forget.

If all things go according to plan (which is a foolish statement in and of itself when it comes to Ironman) I should reach the finish line sometime between 11 and 12 hours after we enter the water.  90 minute swim, 5 hour 45 minute bike, 4 hour marathon, :20 minutes in T1 and T2 (transition areas) combined.  That puts us around 11:35:00.

We’ll see how it all plays out, which is sort of the whole point now isn’t it?  But if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately or what I’ve been up to – worry no longer.  As I said earlier – the rumor of my death has been greatly exaggerated.

I haven’t gone anywhere – and I’m not about to anytime soon.

After the race I’ll share the full training cycle, full of car accidents that took a couple of weeks out of our training cycle and a bike wreck that I survived …. it’s been a little bit of a bumpy ride – but hey.

It’s Ironman.  If it were easy.  Everyone would do it 🙂



Happy New Year everyone!

Over the past several years I have posted on New Year’s morning or thereabouts, sharing my goals for the upcoming year.  They started out pretty vague back in 2009 and 2010, then became very specific in 2011 and 2012.  Entering 2013 I thought that I had a pretty firm grasp on what I wanted to accomplish.  Specific races, distances and my assault on PR’s.

Above all else, I wanted to finally take that 800 lb. monkey off of my back and run that 2:59:00 marathon.  But a funny thing happened to me along the way.  As I recovered from injury at the start of the year I climbed back on the horse and circled a Fall Marathon for my sub 3:00 hour effort only to re-aggravate those pesky strained ligaments in my left ankle and I was once again on the shelf, facing more than 6 weeks away from running and training.

I was able to piece together a solid two months of training and ran a strong 5-mile PR in Cedar Park at the start of November, salvaging what had been a very frustrating year.  I spent the last month of the year thinking long and hard about what I want to accomplish from here on out as a 46 year-old dad, husband and part-time endurance athlete.

What I’ve come to realize is that there is really only one more medal that I want to earn and that is at Ironman Texas.  At that point we will have run more than 10 marathons, competed in more than 100 run-only events, hung more than a dozen half-marathon medals on our rack and filled a couple of shelves with age group awards while compiling a pretty impressive running resume of Personal Records and best ever times.

Sub 3 hour marathon?  Who really gives a sh#%?  Not my wife, not my daughter, certainly Dom would care less about something like that as he certainly had a handle on what was truly important when he said goodbye to all of us.

So in 2014 I’m going to keep it really simple.

  1. Train smart, stay healthy.  It all starts here.
  2. Pace my friend Bob at the Austin Half-Marathon to a 1:28:59 and his guaranteed entry into NYC Marathon 2014.
  3. Ironman 70.3 New Orleans in April.  Dress Rehearsal for IM Texas.  Dial everything in.
  4. Ironman Texas.  Never give up.  Never quit.  Always try.  Get that finisher’s medal.
  5. Spend the rest of 2014 running when I want, swimming when I can, biking when it’s fun.
  6. Spend time with my family, raise my daughter and collect smiles.
  7. Hop in a race from time to time when it feels right and I miss it.
  8. Run in the rain because I want to, not because I have to.

I started the new year with an “easy 10” – wrapping things up in a little under 1 hr. 14 minutes (7:24 pace).  From here to Ironman there will be very few if any rest days or complete days off.  That’s fine, one more push and we’ll have crossed off one heck of a list since we started all this running for Dom back in 2009.

Make no mistake, don’t think I’m about to lay down out there.  If you are hoping to beat me on race day, you better bring it – because I’m certainly going to.  I just don’t know any other way to do it.

Happy New Year everyone!


So, it’s been about a week since I decided to go for Ironman.  I’ve gotten back on the bike, logged a couple of quality rides and even threw down a pretty speedy 51 miles on Sunday.  Took Monday off, then ran Tuesday, rode Wednesday and ran again this morning.

Foot is feeling fine and dandy.  So without any further complications and a little bit of good luck for a change, we should be looking pretty good by the end of September 32 weeks away from Race Day in the Woodlands.  Sounds like a ridiculously long time to prepare for something – and it truly is, but the first 6 weeks of that period will really be about catching my swim back up to my bike and run.  For half-ironman (1,931 Meters) or 1.2 miles, we were actually swimming closer to 3,000 on our long endurance swims.

I’m an over-distance guy when it comes to races that require you to “hammer” so to speak.

If I’m really racing a half-marathon, I want to be training up to 18 miles in my long runs so that the 13.1 on race day is a distance that had been covered multiple times.  Then it is just a matter of racing at the proper intensity level and adjusting down training pace of say 7:15 min./mile to 6:18 min./mile on race day.  The added endurance helps me hold pace late in the half-marathon when “one mile to go” doesn’t really feel like a big deal.

I did the same thing with Half-Ironman training, knowing I “only” had to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 and run 13.1 I was training at distances longer than I would have to cover on race day.

For Ironman however, much like marathon training – over-distance is not a luxury I will have.

There are a few reasons why Iron Man Triathletes only ride 100 milers and run 18-20 as their long run.

1.     Time.  There are only so many hours in the day/week to train.  Prioritization becomes the key.

2.     Injury.  It is one thing to be monitoring your run mileage during marathon training, but add in two more disciplines and you have to be very smart with your overall load.

3.     Necessity.  Just as it is not necessary to run 26.2 miles at a time when training for a marathon – it is not necessary for Ironman either.

We will be capping our swims in that 3,000 – 3,500 meter area.  Perhaps one or two open water 2.4 mile swims just to build the confidence as everyone knows this is the weakest arrow in my quiver.  Speed will not be important for my swim, but knowing that I have that 2.4 miles in me where when I get on the bike, it feels like the swim never happened – will be key to my race.  1:20-1:25 on race day and we’ll be over the moon happy.

1:30 or so and our race will still be right on target.  Nothing crazy – just get out of the water.  If over the winter my swim technique, body position and times improve to the point where we can push harder in the water – great.  But honestly, I’m investing where I can get the most bang for my buck.

The Bike.

When I am fit, healthy and trained properly – I can go out and throw down a 3:15 marathon without too much difficulty.  A 3:10 with a little bit of good luck and weather and even a 3:05 on a good day.  For Ironman, we are going to be looking to run off the bike somewhere around the 3:45 to 3:55 range.  Again, faster on race day if we get good weather – wonderful.  But sub 4 hours is going to be where we live and not too many 1st time amateur Iron Man hopefuls throw down that kind of run.  We’ll be just fine.

The Bike however is a different story.  It’s one thing to throw down that 2:38 bike in Kerrville last Fall, but Can I get off the Bike at Ironman TX in 5:30 to 5:40 and still have enough left in the tank for the run?  That is where our race is going to come together or not.

There is no such thing as a strong Ironman Bike if your run is wasted.

At some point, just like my first marathon during the event, I’m sure I’m not going to be too fixated on splits and time.  It even happened to me in Kerrville a bit, although I was having a great debut at the Half-Iron distance.  Your mindset just shifts to just finishing.  But the beginnings of our race plan is starting to take shape:

1:30 swim, 5:40 Bike, 3:50 Marathon + 10 Minutes in Transition 1& 2 = 11:10:00

Some oversimplified conversions out there say, Double your Half IM time and add :40 minutes which would give us a 10:52:00.  It is going to be quite a bit hotter more than likely down in Houston than it was in Kerrville and of course the weather and nutrition is going to play a major role on race day.

But something between 11:10 and 11:30 seems like it is reasonable.  Better to leave 15 minutes on the clock come race day and not end up walking the marathon at the end, than to push the envelope and try to lay down a near-perfect Ironman in our first (and last) attempt at the distance.

In the end – we actually are racing for a finisher’s medal for the first time since 2006.  It is a great feeling – in some ways I will have less pressure on me at Ironman than I have in New York, Boston X2 and quite a few other events.

Just have to get out of that water ….

I have been kicking around an idea for about a month now.  It started out innocently enough.  In a “what if” kind of way.  But much like the idea of running my first marathon back in 2006, the more I thought about it, the less ridiculous it seemed.  The less ridiculous it seemed, the scarier it became.  Because once something doesn’t seem ridiculous, it starts becoming possible.  And once it becomes possible, there is not a long way to travel before it becomes likely.

Likely is the final stop before real.  And after thinking about it long and hard by myself, I set-up a lunch appointment to talk it through with my best friend who always knows what to say.  When to encourage me and when to tell me that perhaps I should reevaluate things.  Luckily for me, I was smart enough to marry her, which makes these conversations all the more important.

We laid out the pros and cons, the compromise solutions and decided that I should indeed give it a go.


A race that one does not enter into lightly.

2.4 mile swim.  112 mile bike.  Full Marathon (26.2 mi.)

I have told more than 100 people over the years that you should never train to run a marathon unless you feel like you NEED to.  It’s not enough to want to.  Wants are fleeting and over the course of 18-20 weeks of training for a marathon, you have to need it to keep you going.

I told myself a couple of years ago when I learned to swim and competed in my first Triathlon on my 44th birthday that I would never do an Ironman unless I felt like it was something that I NEEDED to do.

Well right now, for a variety of reasons – I need this.  And over the next 36 weeks I am going to prepare to execute a race plan that I will spend months preparing.  Training, Nutrition, weight training, swimming, cycling and of course running.  Endurance over speed.  Technique over strength.  Efficiency over all else.

When the cannon goes off on May 17th in the Woodlands outside of Houston TX, 2,700 athletes are going to start the swim all at once.  It will be a mass start like none other that I have ever experienced.Ironman Texas Swim Start

There will be 5,400 arms flailing and 5,400 legs kicking all at the same time looking for clean water.  My day will start at 7:00 a.m. and will not end for 11 1/2 hours +/- if everything goes right.

If things go wrong – there is no telling how long our day will be.  But I always remind myself how far we’ve come with our swim from that first day on April 11, 2011.  Below is the simply entry into my training log.

First Swim

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 12:31 PM Central Time (US & Canada) By marruchella
Activity Type: Lap Swimming | Event Type: Training | Course: —

I sucked at this.

That’s o.k., we all have to start somewhere.  But it is important to remember where you come from.  Who you are.  What you are about.

I’m a working class kid from a working class family.  I’m a Dad and a husband.  A son and a brother.  I’m a boss to a few, and a friend to many.  I was blessed with a little athletic ability, but nothing remarkable.  I have a tolerance for pain that is greater than some.  Perhaps many.  But it can be somewhat of a curse at times.  It can be to my own detriment on just about any day except race day.

On race day, that is when it becomes an advantage.  There has never been a race course that we have walked off of.  Not our first marathon with an IT Band injury, not the 2012 Boston Marathon in 88 degree heat or any race in between.  And come hell or high-water, it is not going to happen on May 17, 2014 either.

With Dom’s name on my shoes and Landry’s on my TRI Kit we’ll keep pushing until we have our moment.  When Mike Reilly pauses for a moment and says:

“Joe Marruchella …. YOU …. ARE …. AN …. IRONMAN.”

Damn skippy.

The best laid plans ….

Posted: August 19, 2013 in Motivation

According to the history books, Robert Burns while plowing a field in the winter of 1786 upturned a mouse’s nest. He wrote a long poem entitled – “To A Mouse”. The most famous stanza being:

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
 Gang aft agley,
 An’ lea’e us nought bug grief an’ pain,
 For promis’d joy!

The common translation:

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

So today I made the calls I was hoping against hope I would not have to make.

I e-mailed the race director in Utah to pull out of The Big Cottonwood Marathon.

I called and cancelled my hotel reservation in Salt Lake City.

I cancelled my rental car.

I cancelled my flight and re-deposited my miles.

I e-mailed the race director in Scranton, PA at the Steamtown Marathon and withdrew.

I cancelled my hotel reservation in Scranton.

Lastly, I cancelled my hotel reservation in Boston Massachusettes for the 120th running of the Boston Marathon.

In a little more than 10 minutes, I had erased all of the work that 66 1/2 workouts and 691 miles on the trails and the track had accomplished.  As we were once again within a handful of weeks to be ready to toe the line on Marathon Race Day.

There is another quote that I think of often which says, “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.”

So I have poured back over my two training logs training for Houston last year and Cottonwood this year and all that I can come up with is that I might not be able to handle 70+ mile weeks.

The workouts, the long runs, the racing – all of that is the same from past cycles and a long stretch of healthy training, running and racing.

The only difference has been an increase in my top mileage from the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s.

Perhaps that has nothing to do with it.  Perhaps it has everything to do with it.  I’m really not sure.

But what I do know is that on 65 mpw we were able to toe the line healthy in NYC and run our PR on a difficult marathon course.  Perhaps that is all our body can stand.  Perhaps that is why we are a stronger middle-distance runner than true long-distance runner.  Our 10K, 10-Mile, 1/2 Marathon times all project much faster than our fastest marathon time.

So this month as we gradually start back on the Triathlon Bike and mixing in some short runs – I have to take a good hard look in the mirror and decide what we are going to do.  Are we going to go all in one more time and train as hard as we can for Houston in January.  Or do I take a more conservative approach – run for fun this fall and see where we are on November 1st.  Then if we are healthy and running well, do I run a few 20-milers in November and December and see where we are for Houston?

I’m not exactly the type of person who likes to have “fluid plans” or “wing it” when it comes to preparing for a marathon.  But perhaps I should give this change in approach a try.  Not put all of my eggs in one basket as I can do a couple of things in January and February this year.

If I’m ready – I can run the full in Houston and follow-up that race with the Austin half-marathon a month later.

If I am not quite where I need to be by December 15, I can run the Half-Marathon down in Houston in January as my tune-up for Austin, and run the full here on my home course.

The difference being of course that our Austin race course is 3-4 minutes slower than Houston – of that there is no question.  But at this point I just want to run a strong marathon – fixating on running that 2:59 has brought me nothing but heartache to this point.  If it happens, it happens.  If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.  There are far greater tragedies in life than me not going sub 3.

I’ve never been all that impressed by folks who have never been knocked down before.  It was always the ones who never stayed down very long who gained my admiration.  The ones that kept getting back up no matter how many times they hit the ground.

Time for me to get back on the horse and start again.  No more feeling sorry for myself or wondering what if.  Boston is going to be run in April without me.  That will allow someone else to be there this year that otherwise wouldn’t be.  Good for them.  I went for it and got injured.  No regrets.

The reality is that even though from the outside it might have looked like it.  None of this has ever been easy.  In fact, it has been quite hard.  But it is the hard that makes it great.

Onward and upward.


It’s a funny thing as you grow older.  You live thousands and thousands of days, in my case 16,805 of them, and you are reduced to only a handful of days, moments really, that leave an indelible image on your life.

March 15 – the day I proposed to Dawn.

July 15 – our first date.

August 29 – the day I became a Dad.

September 11 – we all share this one.

November 6 – the day I became a marathoner.

But when August 15th comes around now and forever I will think about the day we lost Dom to Cancer.  It has been three years since that warm, summer day in Pittsburgh when I flew up to lay Dom to rest with family and friends, Dawn staying home in Austin as we were just two weeks away from welcoming Landry into the world and it was unsafe for her to fly.

I was only away for a little more than 24 hours, much of which I spent in an airport, on a plane keeping quietly to myself, not wanting anyone to ask me where I was going or where I was headed as I just couldn’t bring myself to tell the story just yet.  I remember seeing everyone at the funeral home the night before the service, just a short time after I arrived in Pittsburgh, talking with Dom’s family, visiting with everyone I had not seen since being there for the Pittsburgh Marathon just three months before.

August 15th was a rough, rough day.  Anytime you watch parents bury a child it is hard to make sense of things.  But knowing Dom the way I did and thinking about everyone and everything he was leaving behind was especially difficult.  I flew home in my suit, carnation still on my jacket and nobody dare ask me where I had been or where I was going.  I suppose they just knew to leave that fellow over there alone.  I was grateful for the quiet time to reflect and say goodbye to my friend.

Three years later and I still feel much the same way.  I vacillate between sadness and anger.  Still asking myself the same unanswerable question of why this had to happen to someone so young and wonderful with so much at stake.  So much to lose.

There are other days when I feel blessed and so very fortunate that I was able to be there for Dom and his family and I was along for his journey with eyes wide open.  Every day he was sick, we woke up with thoughts of helping his family in our heart.  We trained hard, ran a couple of marathons in 13 days and raised spirits, awareness and dollars for Dom’s family.

Three years later and I am still racing with his initials on my flats, trying to run the marathon that I know I have inside of me.

I am injured right now, pedaling away furiously on the tri-bike hoping to save whatever fitness I had build up training for Cottonwood so that I might somehow still be able to toe the line on Sept. 14th in Utah.  2:59 is now out of the question.  It would take nothing short of a miracle for that to happen, and as much as I love the marathon and how special an event it is.  Miracles don’t happen on race day at that distance.

If we do make it out there the only goal will be 3:19:59 which should be enough to get us into Boston this year with our qualifying time of 3:25:00.

The irony of the situation is the goal at the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 that I wanted so terribly to make it to Hopkinton for the first time – 3:19:59.

I haven’t thought of 3:20 being a huge accomplishment in almost 4 years.  But perhaps fittingly so – in honor of our hero Dom – just maybe – that is the perfect goal to chase.

Just because it won’t be our fastest marathon doesn’t mean that it is not a race worth running.  Just getting to the starting line would be a lesson in determination, perseverance and not to sound too corny, but bravery.  Anyone can start a marathon when their training cycle was perfect and they are 100% healthy.

It is a lot tougher to do so when you know that you are “not  right”.  The last time I did that I was in Pittsburgh, licking my wounds from the Boston Marathon 13 days earlier – hoping to somehow hold it together for another 26.2 miles.  It was one of my slowest marathons and probably my most painful.  But it was also one of the greatest races I have ever run.

So Dom, just get me to the starting line in Utah my brother.  I’ll take it from there.

Rest in peace Dom.  We all love and miss you terribly.

P.S. – I really could have done without the flat tire this morning.  Just sayin’.