Posts Tagged ‘116th Boston Marathon’

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

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

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

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

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

Not on Monday.

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

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

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

I felt “honored”.

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

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

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

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

Our Bib number – 5280.

Commonwealth Ave., Hereford, Boylston.

Marathon’s royalty.

Tomorrow we are going to run the race with honor.

Try to do our best.

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

I just had to change the way that is defined.

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

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

With the Boston Marathon now just three weeks away there is not a whole lot of heavy lifting left to do for the athletes who are finishing off their training plans and preparing for one of the greatest single day sporting events in the world.

“Boston” is watched by more people around the United States than any other single-day event aside from the Superbowl.

For distance runners, Boston is our Superbowl.  Our Daytona 500.  Our Wimbledon Final.  Our US Open.

It just doesn’t get any bigger and it certainly doesn’t get much better.

I’m among the fortunate.  I’ve been there before, racing Boston as a qualifier back in 2010.  Many amateur runners try to qualify for the Boston Marathon for years.  They make numerous attempts at the marathon distance to run a qualifying time on a sanctioned course.

Now the stakes are even higher as not only do runners have to run a qualifying time based on their age and gender, but they have to do so by a wide enough margin to gain entrance into the race.  Only the fastest of the qualifiers will actually receive bib numbers to race on Patriot’s Day in Boston.

This year that meant not only achieving your “Boston Time”but beating that standard by more than one minute and 15 seconds or so.  As the years pass I would not be surprised at all if it takes runners a time close to 5 minutes faster than their qualifying standard to actually make it through the registration process before the race fills up.

Boston Qualifying Standards

Athletes will train harder, run faster and the competitive field will get faster and faster at one of the Marathon World Majors.

For me, this is the end of the line at Boston.  I know that it is not wise to say “never” when it comes to the marathon, as I think that for a lot of us, the race chooses us as much as we ever choose it.

Perhaps when I turn 50 or on a special anniversary of Dom’s passing I may be tempted to give this thing a go once again, dust off the old training plan, the race flats and go another round with the marathon.

But to run Boston is to run two marathons – one as a qualifying race, and then of course Boston itself – roughly within a year or a year and a half depending on when the qualifying race was run.

For now, that’s just not on my priority list.  We are going to focus on competing as a triathlete, becoming a stronger swimmer a better cyclist and of course – a faster runner.  That goes without saying.

But to do so, I am going to be focusing on shorter races.  More speed work.  Less long, steady 20+ mile Sunday runs and a much different approach to training and racing.

The marathon is going to be there for me when and if I ever need it.  At some point, I probably will.

But for now, I’m focusing on these last three weeks to race day.  Getting my body 100% right.  My mind sharp, my race plan committed to memory and enjoying the journey to what very well may be my last trip to the starting line in tiny Hopkinton, MA.

I’ve thought about the Boston Marathon at least one time every day for the past two years. 

It’s now time to make my return, run my race, come through the chute and no matter what the clock on Boylston Street says, know that I gave absolutely everything I had in pursuit of a near perfect effort.

I am going to collect my medal, my heat sheet, my banana, water, bagel, Gatorade and dry bag.  I will take off my race flats, put on my compression gear from 110%, a warm top, a ball cap and my Boston Marathon Finisher’s jacket.

I will collect my wife and daughter, hug them tight, cry a few tears of joy or disappointment and start the process of saying goodbye to the marathon for a while.

There will be days that I’m sure I will miss it.  There will also be rainy Sunday’s when I roll back over in bed with the sound of rain hitting the windows outside the bedroom and I’ll smile.  Knowing that I only have a dozen or so miles to run that morning instead of 20 or 22. 

They can wait until after breakfast that week while somebody else is out there training for their chance to run Boston.

I hope that they get as much out of the experience as I have since running my first qualifying time in Pittsburgh on May 2, 2009.  The journey to the starting line of the 116th Boston Marathon has not been easy.  There have been ups, downs, injuries, great races and crushing disappointments, but truth be told, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

On to Boston.

At the end of this week we will be 1/3 of the way to the starting line of the 116th Boston Marathon.

Sometimes I forget just what an amazingly exciting prospect that is.  How hard I worked to get their the first time back in 2010 and how much harder I worked to get there for 2012, dropping my qualifying time from 3:17:43 to 3:08:09.  It is easy to get so wrapped up in the training for the race, that you forget to celebrate the event for what it is.  Life after all is a series of experiences.

Some good, some bad, some memorable, some forgettable – but they are all woven together into the fabric of our lives.  We need to remember as many of those fibers as we can, because in the end, that’s all we have.  Those life experiences.

Last night I decided that it was time to spin Landry’s car seat around and give her a different view of the world on the way to school this morning. 

I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the pleasure, but jacking around with car seats has to be right up there with some of the most enjoyable activities a new parent can experience.  Unwieldy straps.  Buckles that don’t want to open, close, stay open or stay closed – depending on the situation, and of course the best part, locating those safety hooks in between the seats of your car or truck.  Good times all.

"Landry" Basket

But this morning, little Miss Landry was able to sit in her car seat, look straight ahead from the rear of Dad’s truck and see the world as it is meant to be seen.  Looking forward.

I told her when we got to the corner of our block that we wave every morning to the crossing guard who helps kids cross the street to the Elementary School she will attend in a few more years. 

I glanced back in the rear-view mirror and Landry was waving to the crossing guard with her friends Jo-Jo, Hot-Dog, Zebra and Kissy Bear all in her lap.

Pretty great stuff.

As I dropped Landry off at school and made the quiet ride in to the office I thought a lot about how things after 16 months are still ever-changing for Landry.  Every day is a new opportunity to learn something, try something, experience success, experience failure – but all the while continue to get bigger, stronger, faster, gain knowledge, grow and learn.

Sure there are going to be some rocky roads ahead for Landry – that is all part of the deal growing up as a kid.  It’s not all Unicorns and Rainbows.

But if you pay attention, there should be enough of them out there – you just have to know where to look.

This week is our third 65+ mile week out of six to this point.  Our “low-mileage” weeks thus far have been 58.17, 58.95 and 58.63.  On the road to New York we only topped those levels  three times over the 18-week training cycle. 

Our mileage will be much higher during this training cycle, dropping down to the 50-mile per week range only during our three half-marathon race weekends, the first of which will be one week from Saturday at The Texas Half on January 28th.  The hope is that the increased mileage and 10 20-22 mile long runs will give us the stamina and endurance we need to hold pace over the final 5 miles from Chestnut Hill to Boyleston Street.

As we crest Heartbreak Hill at Boston College, it looks like we will only have 36:30 to cover the final 5.2 miles to the finish line if our race plan is executed the way we are setting it up.  The speed to get there is not going to be the problem, it is the endurance piece we will need to draw on to keep fighting all the way to the finish line.

This week’s workouts:

Tuesday a.m.       7 Miles – 7:10 pace

Tuesday p.m.       8.3 Miles – Tempo

Wednesday a.m. 10 Miles – Elephant Pace

Thursday a.m.      10X Hill Repeats (Down) 10.2 Miles

Saturday a.m.       10 Miles Moderate Pace

Sunday a.m.          20 Miles – Marathon Goal Pace +:60

After our run on Sunday there will be just 12 weeks to Boston.  3 Months until we board one of the busses to the most watched single day sporting event in the world outside of the Superbowl.  We’ll be there, surrounded by tremendous runners literally from all over the world.

Eyes forward – and in the end, there actually will be a Unicorn waiting for me at the finish.

Wednesday morning arrived and it was time to get back to work.

Ragnar Florida Keys was now 3 days in my rear-view mirror as I pulled on my running shorts, long-sleeve running shirt, gloves, head band, headlamp and medium weight gloves.

I stretched on the floor of our closet and thought about the 10-miler I had on the schedule.  It was time.  Time to go to work.

I was perfectly content to run easy on Tuesday, trying to work out the remaining soreness in my quadricept muscles leftover from this past weekend’s race.  Some of it was due to that treacherous canal road run in the dark of night on Friday.  Some of it was due to spending the better part of 30 hours folded into the second row of our van.  Some attributed to the flight home to Texas less than 24 hours after my final leg.

But come Wednesday it was time to get on with things and start thinking about the road to Hopkinton once again.  My goals for Ragnar were in fact pretty simple:

1.  Run strong and turn in a great weekend of endurance training.

2.  Come home uninjured.

I was able to accomplish both of those goals – and while my legs did not feel like they did before I boarded the flight to Miami last week – they didn’t feel too bad all things considered.  With 17 days before our first of three half-marathons leading up to Boston – there was no time left to continue to feel sorry for myself or put off the inevitable.

Time to start training once again.

I decided on the most obvious and easy to follow route that I have for an early morning 10-mile run.  An up and down 2-mile opening stretch in our neighborhood, another up and down 2-mile stretch to the Brushy Creek Trail, and then a 3-mile out, 3-mile back final stretch to the house.

A run that I have covered no fewer than 100 times, possibly twice that often.

Oddly after an easy mile at 7:29 pace, my legs fell immediately into a nice smooth rhythm.  This was more or less Goldilocks pace.  Not too fast, not too slow …. just right.

7:18, 7:13, 7:05, 7:18, 7:22, 7:11, 7:15, 7:12, 7:14.

I hit the driveway and I had run a nice, smooth, “no-look” 10-miler in 1:12:41 or just a tick under 7:15 pace.

I walked to the end of the street, stretched against the lamp-post and silently made my way back to the house.

I was no longer recovering from Ragnar, no longer a sore post-race athlete.

I was back to being what I was probably meant to be, long before I even knew what that was.

I was back to being a marathoner.

795.90 miles to go before Boston.  Time to go to work.

Week number one of Boston Marathon Training is in the books after yesterday’s 18-mile long run.

I spent a great deal of time yesterday, perhaps an hour of my 2 hour, 15 minute and 55 second run thinking about my ramp up to Boston in 2010.  Training through an injury and how different things are for me preparing for the race in April.

In December of 2009 I was not running 17 weeks before race day.  I was still recovering from my shin splint injury and was riding my Tri Bike in the garage with the back wheel up on the trainer.  I ran my first 3 miles on the way to Hopkinton on December 28th on the way to a 19 mile week to start my training cycle just 16 weeks before race day.

Yesterday’s run was just one mile shorter than my entire mileage for that opening week of training.  My first week of Boston training for this year’s race was a 58 mile run week featuring a 14 mile mid-week run on Tuesday, (down)hill repeats on Thursday a 9-mile up-tempo workout on Saturday followed and our long run yesterday.

My legs today feel great and despite having a sick little Landry on our hands last night – it appears she got a stomach bug – mentally I feel fired up and ready to go these next 17 weeks to Hopkinton.

As the race draws near however I know that the demons that I am going to have to put to rest in Boston are going to grow larger and larger.

The psyche of any marathoner is delicate.  I am no exception.  As the final weeks of training arrive, mileage decreases as the athlete tapers for the race.  20-mile long runs are now 10.  65 mile run weeks are now 32 miles.  It allows doubts to creep in.   Questions along the lines of:

“Am I ready?”

“Could I have done more?”

“Will I be able to run strong to the finish?”

Those thoughts are tough to squash even when you are approaching a race and a course that you have run before, and performed well on.  They are equally tough when you approach a race for the first time.

But when you return to a race that for lack of a better term, “handed you a new one” the last time you attempted it.  The Demons are cruel and quite vicious.

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about this very thing and how I am going to train like there is no tomorrow for Boston.  Because for me, there really isn’t.  Boston will be it for me for the marathon for quite some time.  Time to spend more time with Landry and Dawn, time to tackle some new challenges with respect to the Triathlon.  More time in the pool.  More time on the bike.  Less time “marathoning”.

It is also going to be special because of the fact that it is Boston and it is my chance to redeem myself after 2010.  I showed up confident in 2010, but woefully unprepared, being able to run just 4X a week, topping out at 45 miles total as our highest mileage week with two long runs of 20 miles.

This time if we are able to execute our training plan we will be running 5 or 6X a week, topping out over 65 miles as our highest mileage week with 7 long runs between 20-22 miles and racing three half-marathons.

This year we will be more than prepared for the race, but it is the area of confidence I hope is not lacking.  I am going to be trying over these next 17 weeks to dispel the memories of 2010.  This year will not be the first time I run Boston.  That is why “first times” are so precious.  You never get a chance to do that again.

But this year I am going to run Boston as the new and improved marathoner that I am.  A 3:08 guy who went toe to toe with one of the most challenging marathons in the world in New York back in November and ran a 7 minute PR.  That is the marathoner who will be boarding the bus to Hopkinton on April 16th, exactly two years to the day after that “other” marathoner got on the same bus in 2010.

Same course, same race, different runner.

I thought a lot about making the right turn onto Hereford Street, running up to Boyleston, making the final left turn and laying on the gas to close out the race.  Passing marathoners left and right on the way to the finish.  Owning those final 5 miles and once and for all exorcising the Demons of Marathons past.

Seems to be the right time of year for that kind of thing.

Happy Holidays everyone.

I was born in 1967 which is relatively unremarkable.

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

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

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

Vision Quest.

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

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

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

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

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

Boston is my Brian Shute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can do better.  I will do better.

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

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