Posts Tagged ‘IBM Uptown Classic’

I’ve had this post marinating in my not yet quite to the taper yet marathon training brain for a couple of days now.  Which is to say, it has been rolling around up there getting only bits and pieces of attention and focus as I find myself so easily distracted at this stage of training.

It seems like my mind wanders from moment to moment – thinking about my upcoming 22 miler on Sunday, then the next minute on breakfast, Landry’s swim lesson yesterday, the fact I have to cut the grass this afternoon, where we put the bag in the attic with the artificial pumpkins to decorate our lamp post area, did I remember to shut off the light in the garage this morning, Doh – conference call at 10!

See what I mean.

I’m not sure if it is the excitement building as New York is now the “next” race on my calendar or if it is something else, but I have to admit that since I started incorporating more racing into my 18-week marathon training plans, I find that it is easier to not have to think about the last race on the schedule so much. 

Looking back during the first week of training for New York, July 4th week, we had our final Wednesday night 5K race in the Sunstroke Summer Stampede Series.  Then it was our first open water swim and run event at the Pure Austin Splash and Dash two weeks later.

On my birthday it was our first Triathlon – July 31st.  My first event after turning 44.  Even if I was only a year older by a few hours.

In August it was the Jaylie.org 5K – racing for a young girl who is battling brain cancer, just like my mother.

September arrived and it was the Austin Triathlon relay on Labor Day and then finally the last three weeks of hard racing:

SI Labs Marathon Relay, IBM Uptown Classic, Denver Half Marathon.

Each of those events served a purpose as they allowed me to run 40.9 miles at race intensity.  Those 40 miles had they been part of  my “traditional” training runs would have been done at a much lower intensity and not nearly as tough of a workout.  Yes, racing takes a lot out of you, but if your goal is to “run faster” and not just “run farther”, I think they are a key component to improving your finish times from the 5K to the marathon.

Which brings me full circle to the post that has been marinating for the last 48 hours or so.

As a 44-year-old runner who is still chasing time goals and PR’s I am in a difficult position.  The reality is that I do not have 10 years ahead of me to get faster.  Can I improve as a runner?  Absolutely.  I feel like I am still learning all the time and I continue to find new ways to challenge myself.   But the finish line clock tracks Father Time just as much as it does race performance, and the reality is that the day that I am “slower” is approaching a lot faster than I would hope.

One of the reasons I decided to run the IBM Uptown Classic this year just one week before the Denver Half-Marathon was so I could take an honest look at where I was as a runner in 2011 vs. 2010.  I wanted to race on the same course at the same event with the same goal (PR) to see how the 2011 version of me stacked up with the 2010 version.

I dressed the same for the event and set out to keep as many things “identical” as I could.  I wore essentially the same race flats from Brooks, just a new pair of T7 Racers instad of the T6’s I ran in back in October of 2010 and I left my iPod at home this year – but other than that – same runner, just a year older.

The race conditions even cooperated as the temperature on October 2, 2011 was only 1 degree cooler (59) than October 17, 2010 (60) for the two races.

The other major change was the race in 2010 marked the end of my Summer Race Season, where I ran a ton of shorter, fast events to get ready to kick off my marathon training for Austin, which began the day after IBM.  In a sense, the 2010 IBM Uptown Classic was my “end of summer” – it was the day before we started preparing for our next marathon.

In 2011, IBM arrived in week 12 of marathon training, with three 20-22 mile training runs in the books – I was better trained perhaps, but I also had three months of heavy mileage on my legs – not exactly a recipe for a fast 10 Kilometer race.

Results?

2010:  38:06

2011:  37:30

As I was making my way to the finish line over the final 2/10 of a mile I was frankly surprised when I caught a glimpse of the finish line clock and I saw it still ticking in the low 37 minute range.  Any PR is a great race by definition and at this stage in my life and running “career”, I will take every one of them as they come and cherish them.  The reality is, my next PR may very well be my last.

Right now with New York City just 3 weeks and 2 days away I continue to look at the runner who stares at me every morning from the mirror and try to take stock in where we are.  Why was I able to take :36 off of my 10K time at IBM?  What did my 1:26:33 half marathon at altitude in Denver mean for New York City 4 weeks later?  Am I stronger and faster or am I at the same point I was heading into Austin last February?

Instead of fixating on numbers and mile splits I decided to take a different approach and I compared race photos from the last two IBM Uptown Classics.  Same course, same photographer, same runner, same location, even the same shorts – only 351 days apart.

Below is the shot from the last 2/10 of a mile in the race in 2010.

2010 IBM Uptown Classic

Here is the same point of the course in 2011.

2011 IBM Uptown Classic

On first glance the photos above appear very similar, but upon closer inspection there are some distinct differences.  By looking at the next frame from the race in 2010, my strides are in synch and they reveal some changes.

2011 Left vs. 2010 Right

In the 2011 photo on the left if you look at my head position and posture you can see I am a much better balanced runner.  I have my hips tucked underneath me and I am tall and strong through to the finish line.  In 2010 my form is starting to go away from me a bit and my head is slightly tilted to the right.

I am much stronger on my plant foot in 2011 and have a stronger lean to the finish.

By going to the “film” it is apparent that all of the training miles and racing have indeed paid off.  We are in a better position at this point in 2011 than we were one year ago.  The only unknown is what that will mean on race day in New York.

A picture really is worth 1,000 words.  In this case, 1,203.

So here we are.  IBM.  Sunday.

About a year ago I went over to packet pick-up to get bib number 205 for the IBM Uptown Classic 10K.  Last year’s race was held a couple of weeks later in the year on October 17th.  It was a big day for me last October as I was trying for the first time to punch through the 40:00 minute mark for 10 Kilometers.

Reaching that goal would gain me a seeded entry into the Cooper River Bridge Run later that spring in Charleston, SC.  The third largest 10K in the United States behind only the Bolder Boulder in Colorado and the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta.

Last year’s race set-up nicely for me as I was not yet into Austin Marathon Training – in fact, the IBM Uptown Classic was my final workout before Marathon training would begin on October 18th.  I was coming off of a summer of speed work, lots of short racing and was “as fast” as I had ever been.

Still I remember lying awake before the race that morning after a fitful night’s sleep wondering if I had 6.2 miles at 6:26 pace in me.  Could I punch through that 40 minute mark.

Cool weather and no wind greeted me last year on race morning and I ran to this point perhaps my greatest race at any distance.

38:06 – finishing in the top 50 at one of the most competitive local events of the year here in Austin.

The race report from last year’s IBM can be found HERE:

Last Year's PR - 38:06

12 months later and I am in week 14 of Marathon Training for New York and just a week away from our tune-up half-marathon at the Denver Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon.

I’m a little beat up.

I’ve been focusing on strength and endurance rather than speed these last 14 weeks and have slugged it out with the hottest summer on record here in Austin.

I have run 1,980 miles since coming through the chute at last year’s race.  Bib number 205 pinned to my race shorts and a smoking fast time of 38:06 (6:07 pace) was 100% mine.

This year I still have those same butterflies circling around in my stomach and it is only Friday.

I know deep inside that I have little to no chance of matching last year’s performance this Sunday.  In fact, it is foolish of me to even entertain such thoughts.  I’m in shape and I’m healthy, but it is a different kind of “in shape” right now.  Over the past 14 weeks I have been increasing the mileage and intensity of my longer workouts, already with three 20+ mile long runs in the books with two more to go before New York.

I will not have the advantage of a proper taper, and of course I have not constructed my training schedule to peak on October 2nd, but in fact five weeks later on November 6th. 

That said there is still pressure on me to perform on Sunday.

This pressure is 100% internal of course – the kind of pressure that only athletes tend to place on themselves.  I’m fairly certain no matter what the clock says on Sunday morning Dawn and Landry as still going to think that I’m pretty awesome.  As awesome as they do now anyway.

38:40 is the magic number on Sunday.

If I can come through the chute with that time up above I will be on track for a 1:26:02 half marathon and a 3:01:28 Marathon.

Striking Distance.

I know that with a proper taper before New York and a tough half-marathon at elevation, we will be in a position for a legitimate run at 3 hours in New York.

A time of 38:30 would translate to a 1:25:40 half and a marathon of 3:00:41.

So that’s the sweet spot for Sunday 38:30-38:40 and we’re there.

That puts us in position to finish off our training for New York, hope for great race weather and get ready for the toughest, most challenging 26.2 miles we have ever run.

As I look ahead to the course in New York, all I am visualizing right now is crossing over the Madison Avenue Bridge at Mile 21, glancing down at the pace tat on my right arm showing me that my time to this point should be 2:24:09 and my watch on my left wrist showing 2:24:00.

5 miles to go and we still have a chance.

That’s really what Sunday is all about at IBM.

I have absolutely no chance at winning my age group.

I have basically no chance at finishing in the top 3.

I have little to no chance of beating my time from last year.

No chance at a PR.

So what am I racing for?

I’m racing for a chance at New York.

With five miles to go that is all I want.

Just a chance.  If it turns out that way in five weeks, strap yourself in.  I’m sure the spectators along the course in Central Park have seen some inspiring runners on Marathon Sunday.  In fact I’m quite certain of it.  But I have a feeling some of them are going to remember that little 40 something year old in the USA singlet leaving everything he had out on the course on the way to the finish line at Tavern on the Green.

8:00 a.m. Sunday the gun will fire and we’ll be off like a rocket.

By 8:39 we’ll know if we’ve got a chance.

After yesterday’s 22-mile long run which wrapped up the endurance building portion of the NYC Marathon Training Cycle we are moving on to a three-week stretch of racing each Sunday to put some speedwork back into the schedule.

September 25 – Silicon Labs Austin Marathon Relay

October 2 – IBM Uptown Classic 10K

October 9 – Denver Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

Three straight race weekends and then two final 20+ mile long runs will take us to a two-week taper for NYC.  I am reducing the taper by one week for New York, feeling that adding a 5th 20 mile long run just two weeks out from the starting line on Staten Island will help us close strong over the final miles in Central Park.

Adding races to my marathon preparation is something that I did for the first time last year competing in the Austin Distance Challenge.  The Distance Challenge was a 5-race event featuring one 10K race (IBM), one 10 Mile Race (Run for the Water), two Half-Marathons (Decker & 3M) and finally the Austin Marathon on February 20th.

I felt like the miles run at race pace really paid dividends during my training cycle as it is so hard to run at “race pace” alone in the morning through a training run.  It takes the spectacle of race day, other runners and pinning a bib on to your shorts or singlet to get that race day mojo going and drop pace that final :10-:15 seconds per mile that make the difference between “running” and “racing”.

Each event will test my readiness in a different way, racing this coming weekend on somewhat tired legs without the benefits of a taper.

Then on to the IBM Uptown Classic where I hope to rebound and make a run at my 10K PR of 38:06 set last October.

Finally the Denver Half-Marathon, run at elevation, which should tell the tale of the tape regarding my ability to punch through the 3:00:00 mark in New York.  1:24-1:25 in Denver means we’ve got a shot.  Anything over 1:25:30 – even at elevation, and it will be tough for me to even decide to go for it on race day. 

Amazing in a footrace of 13.1 miles how much :30 will mean.

But this weekend’s race is an opportunity to shake loose some of the cobwebs from our race legs and have a great time racing with friends.

The SI Labs Austin Marathon Relay is a 5-person relay event covering 26.2 miles in Downtown Austin.  Each runner on the team is responsible for handling their leg of the course, which is divided into a 12K opening leg, two 10K legs and two 5K legs.

Our team comprised of Brendon, Mick, Lee, David and yours truly are running in the Men’s Masters Division – as all of the runners on our team are over the age of 40.  We are running under the moniker – 5 Sorta Fast Old Guys or 5 S.F.O.G.

Last year’s Men’s Masters winning entry ran a time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.  On that team was my good friend Scott Birk, who you may remember passed away on June 13th of this year after being struck by an automobile during a morning training run here in Austin.  The post about Scott’s accident can be found by clicking HERE.

On Sunday, on my left race flat I have Scott’s initials and date of his accident.  On my right instep are Dom’s initials and the date he passed away in August of last year.  With the team we have put together we should be able to throw down a time in the 2:42:00 – 2:43:00 range – which we are hopping will be fast enough to earn us some race day hardware.

I will be running the second leg of the event, the first 10K taking the timing chip from Brendon who is leading things off for us, and handing it over to Lee for the third leg.  Mick and David will run all out over the final two 5K legs and bring home the bacon so to speak.

It is going to be a lot of fun to race with some good friends, and kick off this mini-race season of ours before things turn very serious over the final few weeks leading up to New York City.

As for Boston – we registered for the race just a few minutes ago.  The final spots will be awarded based on how far under the qualifying time a runner ran their qualifying race.  Today’s registration date is for all runners who beat their time by less than 5 minutes, giving out spots from fastest to slowest.

Our qualifying time was 4:59 below our standard, meaning we are at the front of the line for Bibs, only competing with those who ran an identical time as ours.  It looks like we’re in for Boston in April.

Lookout Hopkinton.  A VERY different marathoner will be there on April 16, 2012 than the one you casually threw aside on April 19, 2010.  I look forward to putting a size 9 Adidas Adizero Aegis squarely up your ass.

5 weeks from today we will be competing in the Austin Triathlon as part of a relay team, running the 6.2 mile “anchor leg” for team, “How’s my back look?” as we hope to throw down a fast swim, bike and run in the Olympic Distance Event.

20 days later I will be joining some of my close runner friends here in Austin competing in the Silicon Labs Marathon Relay.  A 5 person relay event covering 26.2 miles as members of each team run 12K, 10K, 10K, 5K and 5K legs.  Our “Masters” or over-40 year old team is hoping to put down a fast marathon time in the 2 hour 45 minute range and potentially bring home an age-group win.

A week later it is the IBM Uptown Classic 10K.

One week later I will be out in Denver racing in the Rock and Roll Denver Half-Marathon, our final tune-up before our next marathon.

Then one month later we will be toeing the line in the granddaddy of them all, the New York City Marathon.  Just me and 45,000 of my closest marathon friends from literally all over the world taking on lady marathon in the city that never sleeps.  Although I’m sure I’ll sleep like a baby Sunday night after battling it out through the 5 boroughs and powering through central park to the finish line at Tavern on the Green.

All of that sounds like a lot of fun, and those races will be for sure.  But there are a lot of training miles left before NYC.  637 and 3/10 miles to be precise, as well as 53,050 meters of swimming in the pool and another 356 to be ridden on the tri-bike. 

We’ll be busy these next 13 weeks.

But this Saturday is our final 5K of the summer race season, and with the exception of perhaps a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, our final 5K of 2011.

Frankly this weekend was not a “race weekend” when I put together my training schedule.  Typically after two hard weeks of training or racing in a row, I have a “step-back” week, where I decrease the volume of my training and the intensity allowing my body to adjust to the increase in mileage and “stress” on my body preparing for the Marathon.

After this past week’s 85 miles of running and cycling, including Sunday’s 17-mile long run in 80 degree temperatures – so hot and humid that my running shoes were soaked in sweat by mile 11 – I could actually hear my fit squishing on every stride over the final 6 miles of the run – I was ready for an “easy” week.

But after learning about Jaylie and her battle with a serious form of brain cancer, the timing of this race, just two days before the anniversary of Dom’s passing away last year, and the fight that my mother is in right now, battling brain cancer of her own – I needed to make some adjustments.

We won’t exactly be running on “rested legs” on Saturday morning, in fact we’ll need to run 2 or 3miles before the race and another 2 or 3 afterwards to get in our scheduled Saturday distance for this point in our training plan – but we are going to let it all hang out over those 3.1 race miles for Jaylie.

Jaylie – you are a brave, brave little girl.  I wish you and your family the absolute best as you continue to receive treatments that we all hope will allow you to be with us for a long, long time.  I’m not sure how well we are going to race on Saturday, but it won’t be for lack of trying. 

Those 19 minutes on Saturday +/- are for you.  See you there.

Peer pressure is a funny thing.  I remember back in High School it revolved mostly around girls, beer, girls, cars, girls, smoking, girls and well, girls.

Now 43 years old, a beautiful wife and baby daughter at home, you would think that I would be more or less “immune” to the trappings of peer pressure.  But alas, I guess I am not as strong as one would think.

On Thursday I registered for the Austin Distance Challenge.

The Austin Distance Challenge is a one of a kind series of races here in the Austin area that are put on by local businesses, non-profits and supporting charities.  To participate runners are required to compete in and complete all five races in the series, wrapping things up with the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 20, 2011.

The five races that make up the series are the:

IBM Uptown Classic 10K 10/17/10

Run for the Water 10-Miler 10/31/10

Decker Challenge Half Marathon – 12/12/10

3M Half Marathon – 1/30/11

Livestrong Austin Marathon – 2/20/11

Truth be told I had the first and last events of the series on my race calendar already.  It was a matter of whether or not I could work the 10-Mile Run for the Water race as well as two winter half-marathons into my training schedule for the Austin Marathon.

IBM Uptown Classic

I was vacillating back and forth, thinking about all of the pros and cons until I saw my friend Mick in the starting area prior to IBM.  During our conversation Mick got me excited about the prospect of running my first distance challenge. 

As my future marathon plans become more and more murky as I contemplate a return to Boston and several other races I would “love to run” in the coming years – this may in fact be my one and only Austin Marathon.

It seemed like a now or never proposition, but I still wasn’t sure.

After IBM I traded a few messages with my friend Andy, the same Andy who I came upon in the late stages at IBM, and he asked if I would be “Running for the Water” this coming Sunday.  He offered to meet me for a run over the extremely challenging course this Sunday as a “training run”, but I had to beg off as we will be christening our baby daughter Landry this weekend with Uncle Keith and Aunt Kim coming in to serve as Godparents.

Andy shared the course with me and how it will serve as a great training run for Austin in February.  Huge elevation changes over the middle portion of the 10-miler, as well as a killer ascent up over 150 feet in less than a half-mile at mile 6. 

The back side of the course is downhill returning along Town Lake to the 1st street bridge.  What a great test for a great cause I thought …. You know what …. I’m in.

So with very little fanfare and a few clicks of the mouse I was registered for the ADC.

I found out that at each of the races in the series I will gain a little “VIP” treatment in the form of tents and refreshments and even a special post-race party after the Austin Marathon at one of our local restaurants.

The race series results are tabulated after the Austin Marathon; there are overall winners of the series as well as age-group award recipients.  I’m not sure if we have what it takes to compete at the Age Group level, but we will receive one of the Austin Distance Challenge Jackets for our trouble – which is definitely a nice touch.

So thanks to Mick, Andy, Shelly and a few other runners here in the Austin Community – I’m in.

Next up, The Run for the Water 10-Miler on Halloween Morning.  It will be my first ever 10-mile race, and yes, I’ll have to run an additional 4 mile workout afterwards to hit my Austin Marathon Training Mileage for the day, but I can’t wait. 

This won’t be a “goal race” for me obviously as I won’t be able to truly taper and recover properly given my marathon training to “Go Big or Go Home”, but I do expect to run well and enjoy the event. 

I am going to try to gain a little something from each of these races, and for this coming Sunday it will be to stay with my race strategy and pace even though I know I am “capable” of running faster.  That will be a very valuable lesson for the early stages of the Austin Marathon when I want to attack the course and chase down a new PR.

That is foolish in the early stages of a marathon.  No matter how foolish that may be, it is also a trap that many an experienced marathoner falls victim to on race day. 

The next 17 weeks will have a lot of smaller “steps” that lead to the starting line.  The first 20 miler, my 21 mile longest of long runs, recovery weeks, hill repeats and tempo runs.  All geared toward showing up on February 20, 2011 ready to run the race of our life.

The journey has begun, we’ll just be taking a slightly different path to get there.  Thanks guys for the motivation (peer pressure), to take on the Austin Distance Challenge.

By all accounts Dom personified the adage it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog …. I think he would be proud of me to be participating in this series of races. 

I’ll do my best not to let him down.

Have you ever woken up and known that you were going to have a great day?  Not thinking you were or hoping you were, but really knowing.  Well Sunday was that kind of day for me.  I remember showing up to the starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 with a great deal of confidence.

I had gone through a great training cycle with a singular goal.  3:19:59 and an entry to the most storied Marathon in the world at Boston.  I remember showing up that morning to the starting area, mind you this was only my second marathon, but I knew that I had a Boston time in me.  I had done all the work, had a great race plan and all that was left was for me to go out and execute.

I remember running the final miles that day with time in the bank and a smile on my face.  I was crushing my goal time and would finish at 3:17:43.  Since that day in May 2009, I’ve never had that same race day feeling.  Sure I’ve run well in many of the races since.  I’ve even posted a few PR’s that I was proud of.  But I had never been able to recapture that feeling.

Until today.

I woke up 5 minutes before my alarm clock set for 5:00 a.m., three hours before the starter’s gun.  Instead of rolling over and grabbing those final 5 minutes of sleep, I bounced out of bed and couldn’t wait to get going.

I had laid out my race clothes the night before, the only real question was whether or not I would be running “topless” or with a lightweight singlet, so I decided to pin my bib number to my race shorts.  I made my way to the kitchen, ate a bagel smeared with Peter Pan Peanut Butter and drank a bottle of water.

After stretching on the family room floor, I loaded up the truck, said goodbye to Dawn and made my way over to the IBM campus.  To park close to the start I would have to arrive prior to 6:45 a.m. when the road closures would go into effect.  I got a great spot in the parking garage about one hour and fifteen minutes before race time and relaxed by reading the newspaper online and went over the race course for the seventh or eighth time.

At 7:00 a.m. I was in need of a porta-potty as I had just finished my second bottle of water.  There was already a buzz in the starting area as a lot of runners and volunteers were getting ready for the event.  I decided to leave my asics trainers on my feet to jog up to the starting area and then back to the truck after my pit stop to shake loose.

I said a few “hellos”, took care of business in one of the many porta-potties with no lines (Yay!) and jogged slowly back to change into my race flats.  Due to a pretty significant mileage reduction this week, only running 7, 8 and 2 miles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday respectively – I felt like I was running on springs.  My legs had a lot of bounce and with the exception of a little bit of tightness in my left hamstring, I felt ….. Perfect.

Race Shoes

At 7:30 a.m. I made my way back to the starting area, took a few strides and ran a relaxed ½ mile warm-up.  Just about that time my friend Mick showed up and we got a chance to visit a bit in the starting area.  Mick was not running on Sunday, but was there to “root home” some of the members of his running group from Georgetown.

A few moments later a fellow runner Tom who had been following Dom’s battle with cancer here on Run for Dom came by to introduce himself.  We chatted a bit and before I knew it we were assembling for the Star Spangled Banner.

I decided to in fact discard my singlet, and Mick graciously took it from me for safe keeping during the race.  The temperature was right around 60 degrees with very little wind.  Perfect.

Dawn, Landry and our friends Sarah and Tedd were going to be at the race, but due to the layout and the nature of the large looping course, I was unsure if they would be able to get to the start/finish area or if they would be out somewhere along the 6.2 mile route.

I knew that the first turn on the course would be to the right, so I found myself in a great spot, just short of the starting line on the right hand side of the corral.  As the National Anthem began I began to have a hard time standing still.  I found myself shifting from left foot to right and back again, nervous energy was starting to build inside of me.

During the last refrain I looked up at a beautiful TX morning sky and thought of Dom. 

In a way that is hard to describe, I felt a calm come over me.  I stopped bouncing and calmly edged up to the start.  I turned on my iPod and kicked off a new Playlist that I put together specifically for this race.   I rubbed my hands together, gave one more nod to the sky and tucked in with the first 20 runners at the start.

There would be approximately 1,200 runners participating in the Uptown Classic 10K, another 1,800 runners participating in the fun run portion of the event.  There was a lot of great energy in the starting area, a lot of young high-school and college runners who would be looking to crush the IBM course.  We of course were looking to “go low”, a new PR was the goal coming in under 40:00.

The last thing I thought of before the gun was an exchange I had with my good friend Steve Spiers from Virginia Beach.  Steve who is an incredible athlete and courageous distance runner has had a truly amazing 2010.  He has been running faster and stronger than at almost any point in his life.  Steve’s message to me on Saturday night was:

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I honestly think you’re in sub-39:00 shape, and that quite frankly is quite a conservative prediction. I’ve been guilty of selling myself short in the past, and have found that confidence is a wonderful thing. Some of my recent race first mile splits would have scared the life out of the old Steve, but now I just tend to go with the flow and attack the remainder of the race.”

I don’t know if it was the message itself, or the source of that message – but it really struck a chord with me.  I felt like I had a great race inside of me, I just needed to have the confidence to put it out there.  To have the courage to go all-in and see just what I was capable of doing with this gift from above.

Days like this don’t come along very often in life I thought to myself.  Time to go to work.

Just like that we were across the mat and out onto the course.  Although I had never run IBM before, I felt like I knew every twist and turn.  I would be able to manage the corners, knew what side of the road to choose and exactly where the difficult parts of the race would be found.  There would be no surprises for me on Sunday ahead.  No blind turns or doubt about where to go next.  I felt 100% locked in and ready to rock.

Mile 1:  I had planned on going out right around goal pace for the opening mile given the uphill nature of the course.  I quickly dismissed that strategy as I settled in at the top of the first straightaway.  The incline was not slowing my turnover at all.  A 6:26 pace first mile at goal pace would definitely be selling myself short as Steve put it.  I decided to simply let myself go a bit and clip of the first mile at a comfortably hard pace.

A handful of runners were passing me over the first mile, but all were of the “collegiate runner” variety.  It is tough when that happens to not get caught up in “racing” the other runners.  I knew that despite the fact I was losing “track position” I was running strong.  No need to change anything.

I glanced down at my GPS at the 1st mile marker.  5:56 pace over the opening mile.  About :10 seconds short of my opening pace during a 5K.  No need to panic, it was fast, but felt just about perfect. 

Mile 2:  I backed off the pace just a touch over mile number 2.  I knew that this mile as well as mile 3 was very “fair”.  Basically a net elevation change of zero.  This was the part of the course to zero in on pace and stay smooth, consistent and strong.

I decided to grab a splash of water at the water station and was able to grab the cup, pinch the top, take a nice cool sip and even toss the cup directly into one of the waste baskets.  At the beep mile 2 came in at 6:09 pace.  My race plan had called for a second mile of 6:15.  We were off to a great start.

Mile 3:  Little did I know that this was where Dawn, Landry and company had set-up shop.  I had tried to look through a few of the crowds to sneak a peak of them, but I was running with a great sense of purpose and focus.  I was gobbling up the ground pretty quickly, and with my iPod blasting Green Day away at me, I never heard their shouts of encouragement.

Mile 3 came in at 5:59 pace.  Half-way there, just needed to keep it together.

Entering mile 3 on Sunday

Mile 4:  I knew by studying the course on Friday that mile 4 would be the last “easy” mile of the day.  It was the last mile before the climb back uphill over mile 5.  I didn’t want to “go crazy” at this point, but I didn’t want to play it too safe either.

I decided to hold steady with my leg turnover and see how close we could come to our effort over mile 4.  At the beep my GPS showed a split of 6:03.  Four down, two miles to go.

Mile 5:  The climb began just past the water station.  I grabbed a cup, pinched, sipped, swallowed and pitched all in one motion.  I knew upon first driving the course on Friday that this was going to be where the race would come together for me …. or not.

The elevation change turned out to be 84 feet over mile 5 or a little bit more than an 8 story office building.  I was feeling strong heading up hill, but knew that my pace was slipping.  It was still too far from the finish to really put the hammer down, so I decided to rely on all of the hill-repeats we have been doing this summer and fall to keep our form together. 

Just stay smooth and consistent I thought to myself, we are going to give some time back to the clock, the question was only how much.

I glanced down at my watch as I hit the Mile 5 sign on the course, 6:33.  Only :07 seconds slower than goal pace.

Gotta love those hill repeats.

Mile 6:  The early portions of mile 6 served as a bit of a recovery mile from mile 5.  I was feeling pretty good actually when I noticed a runner that I had been “chasing” for some time slowing to the side of the course.

He had just said “Hi” to his wife and child in a stroller on the left of the course which grabbed my attention.  As he slowed to a walk, I came up on him and as I pulled even I realized that it was my friend Andy.

I clapped my hands together quickly and shouted to Andy, “Let’s go, let’s go, you’ve got this” …. Sure enough in the next 2/10 of a mile Andy pulled back alongside me and took his place back ahead.  Andy would finish :03 seconds ahead of me on Sunday. 

8 years my junior, I can live with that – I know he would have done exactly the same thing for me.

Mile 6 came in at 6:13 pace.  I had recovered well from the climb at mile 5, it was time to kick.

Final .20:  As we made the turn onto the final straight away I could see the finishing chute and race clock in the distance.  The clock was still reading time in the 37 minute + range, I was too far away to break the 38:00 minute mark, but I was still flying along at a strong pace.

About 100 Meters from the finish I couldn’t help but smile and spread my arms out wide.

I felt like an airplane coming in for a landing and just as the final 2/10 of a mile at Pittsburgh in 2009 was a celebration, so too was the closing stretch at IBM.

I was hoping to wrap this final portion of the race up in 1:20, but was able to close in 1:15 (5:20 pace).

It’s tough to know how much time the “airplane arms” cost us.  But it really didn’t matter at that point.  A new 10K PR by 3 minutes and 1 second.  Boom.

Official Race time – 38:06, finishing 49th out of approximately 1,200 runners, 5th in our age group.

IBM Marked the end point of our summer race season and the start to Austin Marathon training that starts on Monday morning.  We entered May with a 19:43 minute 5K PR which now sits at 18:12.  I had never raced at the 10K distance before, and now have a PR of less than 39:00 minutes.  Most importantly we leave October a much stronger, faster and more confident runner.

I look forward to enjoying this race today and tomorrow, then getting ready to get back to work on Tuesday from Connecticut as we take our first strides toward the starting line of the Austin Marathon.

One thing I know for sure is that we have more left to give.  I have yet to run my best marathon. 

There are no guarantees in marathoning, that race is a cruel, cruel distance that can test a runner like no other.  But the one thing I can guarantee is that we are going to give our all during this training cycle to toe the starting line with the same confidence in our race preparation as we did this morning.

February 20, 2011 – the 20th running of the Austin Marathon, Boom goes the dynamite.

So here we are, Thursday before race day.  20 Weeks ago at the start of summer I placed a training plan on the “magic refrigerator”, 96 runs and a little over 750 miles later we’re here.  IBM.

You may remember me telling you about the magic powers that our LG side-by-side, bottom freezer has.

Just by placing a piece of paper with days, weeks, months and miles to run on the door can make my body, mind and spirit do some pretty incredible things.  It was this very same “magic fridge” that got this very average guy with average abilities to the finish line of two major marathons just 13 days apart this spring.

A big part of me knows that it was Dom and his incredible will to take his cancer battle the full fifteen rounds that kept me going.  His courage and bravery throughout the last year is something that I am still in awe of now two months since his passing on August 15th.

But I also know that there is something powerful about that refrigerator.  Something that pushes me out the door in all kinds of weather to take on tempo runs, hill repeats, long runs and in all fairness some easy runs, all while nobody is looking.  I did it these last 20 weeks missing just a single planned training run two days after Landry was born. 

Quite fitting as I realize that some day before I know it I will have to find another location for my training plan as Landry’s art-work will take its place, giving me an even more powerful reminder of what it means to inspire someone.

Perhaps in some small way, years from now, Landry will feel that her Mom and I provide her with motivation and inspiration to try to do something that isn’t a slam dunk.  Something that she has to work hard for and will “test her”, to be the very best that she can be.  Letting that be her measurement for success, not how she compares to her friends or peers, but how she stacks up against her own talents and expectations.  That she is in fact the best “Landry” she could ever be.

Getting just the smallest sip from that cup is incredibly intoxicating. 

I watch Landry discover new things every day, get stronger, hold her head up a bit longer, tighten her grasp on my finger a little tighter and I think about all of the amazing things she will do in the coming months and years.

You're going to run how fast Dad?

As I grow weaker, she will grow stronger.  As I run slower, she will run faster.  She will eventually pass me by, as it should be.  But not right now, not this weekend.

This week while I was traveling back and forth to New York I had a lot of time alone to reflect on things.  On what it is about Sunday’s race that has me sitting here with pre-race butterflies more than two days before the event.

Upon reflection, it has something to do with racing for the first time since losing Dom with something at stake.  With something to lose, where by making my time or not making my time there are repercussions.  In every summer race to this point I could explain away a bad race due to the fact I was racing while training or had a bad day or just didn’t “feel it”.  I celebrated the good efforts and tried my best to forget the bad ones, because at the end of the day, the only race that truly mattered was this one.

I want to run well for a lot of reasons on Sunday, but above all else I want to honor the man whose name is on my race shoes.  I’m running for me on Sunday, but I’m carrying Dom with me and it just won’t be good enough to not run to my capabilities.  Not this Sunday.  Not at this race.

The sponsors at IBM are calling it a 10K fun run.

Good for them, no doubt there will be a lot of fun to be had on Sunday.  We’ve raced 11 times so far this year, and with the exception of the final miles at Boston, we’ve had a lot of fun at each and every event.

But Sunday isn’t about racing for the “fun of it” for me.  This is a “Goal Race” which makes it much more serious to me than all but 2 of the 11 races that preceded it this year.  I don’t know of too many things that I have circled on a calendar 20 weeks in advance and worked my butt off to get in a position to be successful only to come up “small”.

So here we are, just an easy 2-mile shakeout run is left on Saturday morning, just like I run before a marathon.  Nothing strenuous, just a quick workout to get the legs moving and burn off a little nervous energy, and then it will be race day.

Boom goes the dynamite on Sunday. 

And you know what?  It IS going to be “fun”.