Posts Tagged ‘Joe is running for Dom’

5:50 a.m. and the alarm clock sounds.  It is a holiday weekend, but for a distance runner in Texas this time of year, there is a price to pay for sleeping in.  Even at 6:00 a.m. the temperature is already a steamy 77 degrees.  We have a 12-mile long run on the schedule hanging on the door of the “magic fridge” and this is not a run to skip.  So I hop out of bed, get Kayla started with her first trip outside of the day and her treat and get ready to knock out one final run.

20 weeks ago the Run for Dom training cycle began with a 3 mile run on December 28th in 32 degree temperatures.  83 Runs, 47 triathlon bike rides, 1,293 training miles, 1 half marathon, 2 full marathons, a mile race and $27,292.74 dollars raised for Dom’s family had been achieved up to that alarm clock going off.  All that was left was my final 12-mile training run. 

Run for Dom 2 Marathon/2 Week Training Plan

“12” is the distance that I like to run 4 Sundays after a marathon letting me know that my body is recovered, my fitness level is sound and I can basically go anywhere I want from here.  Another Marathon?  I could be ready in maybe 8 weeks.  A half-marathon?  No problem, is there a race next weekend?  Time for some speed training?  Hills?  Tempo Runs?  It’s all in play as essentially I am ready to ramp either up or down from that 12-mile distance.

Final 12-Miles

Sunday’s run was uneventful on a hot Austin morning.  I made sure to bring my hydrabelt with me topped off with two 10 oz. water bottles.  Over the course of 90 minutes and 59 seconds I would drink both bottles and still lose 4 lbs. according to my bathroom scale.  It was hot out there – but it felt great to let the miles tick by and think a bit about all of the ground we covered in the last twenty weeks. 

The last 5 months was a pretty remarkable “run” for sure.  Sunday’s run was a fitting workout, both enjoyable but very challenging at the same time due to the elements.  We mixed in some hills to make it tough at the end – just the way I like it.

I was hoping to come in right at 90 minutes (7:30 pace) this morning – but as the hills and heat started to get to me, I decided to slow my pace a bit and enjoy the final 5 miles of the run.  No sense to push pace just to post a 7:30 this morning, 7:34 would do just fine.  Monday (Memorial Day) will be a true rest day for me – no running, no cycling – possibly a strength training session – but no cardio work.

There will be one more task on the to-do list however, and that is to map out the next 90 Days of training.  We’ve got three weeks until the Holland, TX 5K on June 19th – which will be a race we take somewhat seriously.  One year ago I was able to set my PR at the 5K distance and take home my first (and only) first place age group trophy of my running “career”.  It was a hot, hot day last June when I was able to post my 19:43 time and I am hoping that training in these hot conditions the next three weeks will again prove to be helpful come race day.

Tuesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to tempo work and hill repeats during this next 90 days, with a “Naked Wednesday” run stuck in the middle.  Saturdays will be an “easy” day – maybe just 5-6 miles with my Sunday runs alternating between 8, 10 and 12 miles throughout the summer months.  These next 90-days will also map out the remaining time Dawn and I have left awaiting the arrival of our daughter Landry.

Sure to be an exciting time for both of us – although I’m sure Dawn was wishing this final trimester was not going to be full of 95+ degree days.

Finishing off Sunday’s final Run for Dom workout was bittersweet.  Normally I like to immediately cross off a tough workout as I grab my water bottle out of the “magic fridge” when I get back home from my run.  But I let the final square go “uncolored” throughout the day Sunday as a reminder that we still have some unfinished business when it comes to our Run for Dom goals. 

Yes we reached our fundraising goal through the help of a lot of amazing friends both old and new – but our true goal, our credo if you will, was to “Kick Cancer’s Ass 26.2 Miles at a Time.”

As Dom prepares for another round of chemotherapy this Wednesday, it is clear that we haven’t quite gotten there yet.  So for now we’ll leave that final square on our RFD schedule clear.  We’ll have plenty of time to fill that one in later, when we’ve made it all the way to the end.

One Run To Go

The Congress Avenue Mile looms in just three days (Saturday morning) – and I have to admit that I am pretty far out of my element in preparing for this race.  Never having run track in High School and only taking up running in the last 5 years when I was already 37 years old, to say that I am not a “miler” is a gross understatement.

So what in the world is this marathoner doing getting ready to toe the line on Saturday morning with a bunch of sprinters?  I’ve been searching for the answer to that question this week as I have adjusted my training runs.  I kicked around quite a few theories, but to be honest, I think it boils down to my fascination with Pre.

Pre

Steve Roland Prefontaine who I wrote about on his birthday back in January, helped get me excited about the sport of running.  Click here to read about Pre:   http://wp.me/sHGel-pre

When I learned about Pre’s accomplishments as a school-boy runner in Coos Bay, Oregon and then as an elite runner at the University of Oregon, Pre captured the spirit of the kind of runner I wanted to be.  I wanted to be the guy that was an “all-go, no-quit” kind of runner.  But when you take up a sport that you are already more than a decade “too old for” whatever that means, it is important to be realistic about the physical limitations you face.

That being said, for us “older runners” experience thankfully enters into the equation and matters on race day.  I really enjoy the mental side or running and racing – the strategy side of the sport if you will – as much as the physical test.

A lot of people say that the Marathon is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) race.  That tactics and your ability to stick to your plan when you are fatigued are a big part of your success in covering the 26 mile 385 yard distance.  I don’t disagree.  But I also feel that there is something magical about “the mile”.  From Roger Banister breaking the 4:00 mark to Pre’s 3:54:6 in 1973 at Oregon – the mile is “sexy”. 

Less than 1% of the population will ever run a marathon.  Out of that 1%, less than 10% will ever run a “Boston Time”.  That is pretty exclusive company – and it is that exclusivity that adds to the allure of the marathon for me.

But the mile is different.  Everyone of us knows they “could” run a mile.  It is just a matter of how fast.  So for me, I am looking forward to Saturday as much as any race I’ve ever run.  To be honest, I’m more nervous 3 days away from the starter’s gun than I was 3 days before the Boston Marathon. 

I find myself thinking about strategy for the first 1/4 mile, the middle 1/2 mile and that final 1/4 mile to the finish.  Will I go out too fast?  Will I be able to hold pace over the middle portion of the race?  Will I start my finishing kick too early?  Will I wait too late and not push hard enough?  All are questions that I will not be able to answer until 8:10 a.m. Saturday morning.

By 8:16 it will all be over (hopefully).  I’d love to run something in the 5:00’s for my first attempt at the distance.  Is that possible for this soon to be 43-year old marathoner?  No telling.  The one thing I do know is that I am going to look to channel my “inner-Pre” on Saturday.  One of my favorite running shirts has a quote from Pre on the back that you see at a lot of races:

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”

But there is another quote from Pre that I’ve been thinking about a lot this week when I have been pushing myself into a full-out sprint at the end of my 5, 6 and 8 mile training runs – focusing on my leg turnover and my form – trying to stay tall and fast:

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”

I have no illusions for any type of glory on Saturday, no age-group or division victories – I’m just hoping I can run the best race that I can and leave nothing out there on the course.  In the end I think Pre had it exactly right.  I’m going to turn Saturday morning into a “guts race” as Pre used to say, and if I do, I’m the only one who can win it.

So Dom, check back with me after breakfast – I’ll be running for you on Saturday.  I know you would give anything to be out there with me if you could.  Legs pumping, arms swinging, chest heaving  – it’s going to be quite a race.  Because at the end of the day, everybody likes to go fast.

Shake N’ Bake.

I woke Sunday at 4:45 a.m. to start preparations for race day.  Marathon number two in as many weeks was scheduled for a 7:30 a.m. start.  In just a couple of hours we would be standing alongside 16,000 runners in an effort to finish what we started by competing in the Pittsburgh Marathon.  As my alarm clock chirped me awake, already something was very different about this race day than all others.  I realized that I had actually slept through the night.

Never before had I actually been able to sleep straight through until morning on the eve of a marathon.  Usually I am a bundle of nerves, obsessing about a small injury, the weather, the course or my race plan. 

There were certainly some things to be concerned about on Saturday evening when I went to bed.  My last images were staring at a very ominous radar weather report showing a line of thunderstorms headed our way from Ohio and a predicted starting temperature of 73 degrees.  My body was still a bit beat up from the race at Boston two weeks prior and I had really no idea what to expect on the course.

On another day I’m sure I would have been stressed out about the battle that would ensue the following morning.  But as I left our pre-race dinner on Saturday evening with family, friends and our guests of honor Dom and Val, I was remarkably calm.  Sunday was going to be a difficult day physically, but a great day spiritually.  I was determined to enjoy every last minute of it.

The race plan that I developed on Saturday afternoon as I relaxed alone at the hotel was pretty simple.  Run like you would run any other marathon as well as you can, for as long as you can.  When your body begins to fight you, slow down and tough it out.

Whether that occurred at mile 6, 8, 12 or 20 so be it.  I knew it was going to change from a physical test to a mental one.  I was ready for it, and in a strange way, looking forward to it.  Running two major marathons in the span of 13 days wasn’t going to be easy.  That was the point.  It was never supposed to be.  So let’s get on with it and start the battle.

After my pre-race breakfast of a bagel and a banana, I had my last drink of water at 5:30 a.m. (two hours before the starting gun) and dressed for the race.  I knew it was going to be a wet, wet day out there – and moisture is the enemy for marathoners.  A ton of friction builds up over a 3+ hour marathon.  Skin rubbing against skin develops blisters and sores.  Especially on your toes and feet, which can mean big trouble late in a race.

I carefully applied body glide over all of the usual culprits.  My feet, toes, waistband, armpits, neck, nipples and my calves as my feet sometimes scrape the insides of my calves when I get fatigued.  I even went with the “old school” application of band aids over my nipples in case the rain made my singlet so heavy that it put extra downward pressure on my chest area.

The last thing I wanted to do is to start battling small irritating pain along with the soreness that was sure to return from Boston two weeks before.  I had no idea how long I would “feel good” – but I wanted to be as far along the course as I could before my body rebelled.

I had a feeling it would be a matter of how long before the pain returned not how far I had traveled.  So I would run my typical race pace and get as far out on the course as I could before the fight really began.

I asked my wife Dawn to write 4 DOM in blue sharpie down each of my arms a reminder as to what this day was all about.  I tucked a small note in my left shoe that read, “run like you’ll never run again” that my friend Ashley had said to me prior to race day.  We were ready.

Dawn dropped me off at the start area and I made my way to the corrals.  I spoke with a few dozen marathoners which is always one of my favorite parts of race day.  Some were first timers, some were marathon veterans, some were running for a cause and some were chasing “a Boston time”. 

I met one such runner named Kermit wearing bib number 666.  I teased him a bit about his number and told him I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  That it was certainly an “evil” number for the event.  With great confidence he told me that he had prepared to run a great race and was bound and determined to get that 3:10:00 he needed to qualify for Boston next spring.  We would see Kermit again later in the day.

Crowd at Starting Corrals

As I walked away from Kermit I thought to myself, “that was me” exactly one year ago standing on the same Pittsburgh street with dreams of a Boston time.  It dawned on me then just how much my priorities had changed over the past 12 months and how very different my goals for the day were.  I crouched down below all the other runners as the PA system announced one minute to the start.  I could feel the emotions building inside of me.  It was getting harder and harder to hold them in check.  I thought of my friend Steve who had also run at Boston two weeks ago.  Had he not had a family commitment he would have made the trip to Pittsburgh with me to run for Dom.  I stood back up, took a deep breath and got ready to take our first strides onto the course.

A couple stray tears found their way down my cheeks, I’m not sure where they came from being the “tough guy” that I am.  I smiled to myself, punched my GPS and off we went.

Miles 1-4 – Strip District

I took my first steps across the mat after not running since Tuesday and immediately I could tell my legs felt great.  “Thank goodness” I thought, as I now knew I wouldn’t be fighting the course all day long – perhaps only the last 10K?  I ticked off the Strip District miles in 7:12, 7:16, 7:15, 7:20.  I was running free and easy and my leg turnover felt great.  I covered the first four miles only :13 slower than last year’s time on the way to our PR of 3:17:43.

The first raindrops starting falling on me at mile 3.  It was just a drizzle, but dark skies loomed.  I had told Dawn to bring my running hat with her to our “check point” along Ft. Duquesne Blvd on the way to the Clemente Bridge.  Because the temperature was so high at the start I did not want to wear my hat the entire way in an effort to stay cool.  However with the rain drops hitting my face and washing sweat into my eyes, I was hoping I would see her to retrieve it.

Along mile 4 I saw my friend Jason Cass.  He made the trip from Austin to root on his brother Brian in the half marathon and yours truly in the full.  A mile sponsor and great supporter – it was so great to see Jason.  I flashed him the PR sign with my fingers and laughed to myself – fully knowing that it was a facade.  There would be no PR’s for me today, but I felt like I had already won just by being out there fighting.

Miles 5-7 – The Bridges

At this point of the race we crossed the 16th street bridge and the rain had really started falling heavily.  I was soaked, my feet were squishing and I had a was having “ear bud trouble”.  My trusty Arriva ear buds had become “deformed” a bit when I packed them for the race.  They are flexible and quite comfy – but I just couldn’t get the left bud to settle in as I ran.  With all the additional moisture and wetness in my ear, the rubber was just too slick to stay put.  So at mile 6 I took off the earphones and decided to run “quiet”.   There would be no more music for me.Approaching Ball Cap/Water Bottle Hand Off

It was the best decision I made that day as it would pay off with huge dividends later in the race.  As I turned the corner coming back into downtown on the 7th street bridge, just as we had planned I saw my wife Dawn.  She had my Boston Marathon running hat and we executed a professional hand-off.  I pitched my first water bottle into the street as my Mother-In-Law Momma S handed me a fresh one.  It was actually a thing of beauty to witness and a runner a few strides later remarked, “Man, that was pretty sweet”.  Damn right it was.  I still felt strong and now after seeing my family as well as Dom and Val along the course – it was time to go to work.

I ran miles 5-8 in 7:27, 7:20, 7:18, 7:27.  A full :25 seconds faster than last year over that same stretch.

Miles 9-12 – The Stadiums and get ready to climb

Dom Watching Runners pass by along course

The runners went past the Pirates ball park, the Steeler’s football stadium and a small commerce area.  The crowds were very thin over this section of the course as there really wasn’t any way to get there and park.  The rain was still falling heavily and the wind was gusting.  Not optimum conditions for spectators – but the volunteers were out there doing a great job.  They were giving out oranges, water, Gatorade and vaseline on a stick.  As I passed the vaseline I thought, man I hope the rookies are taking advantage of that with all this rain.

Miles 9, 10 and 11 ticked by at 7:34, 7:34, 7:37 but I was starting to feel my hips heating up.  I stared at the first climb up the on-ramp at mile 12 and knew it was about to get tough.  I pushed up the on-ramp and over the West End Bridge at 7:47 pace.  Only :15 slower than a year ago, but it was starting to hurt a bit.  I was nearing the half-way point and the battle was about to begin.

Miles 13-16 – The Hills

This is the part of the course that really gets tough.  You climb for almost two straight miles.  There are two major hills on the course, immediately after the Birmingham Bridge at mile 13 and then to the top of Forbes at the University of Pittsburgh campus at mile 15.  Miles 12-16 are “my miles” during a marathon.  I feel my best and strongest and can really stay strong and fast.

I think that is why Pittsburgh set-up so well for me in 2009.  The most difficult stretch of the course came when I was at my strongest.  I dominated these hills in 2009, running them in 7:50, 7:30, 7:26, 7:38.  I had that confidence to lean on as I took to the hills, but I simply didn’t have the leg strength after Boston.  Not this year.

I stayed smooth, focused on my leg turnover and passed a lot of runners on the way up.  I was fighting my hips however as that soreness from Boston returned and now it was only a matter of time.  My splits over this section this year were 8:06, 7:54, 7:46 and 8:13.  We would not run another sub 8:00 minute mile on Sunday.  In fact I would run only 4 more miles in the 8:00’s.  But we battled to the top of Forbes and smiled for the course photographers.  Things were about to get really tough.

Miles 17-20 – More hills

This part of the course is rolling and hilly.  There are a few “downs” to help stretch your legs out, but it is mostly climbing.  Some of the best fans on the course are here however as they know this is where the race gets difficult.  I began to recognize a lot of landmarks from a year ago and reminisced about my race in 2009.

At this point last year I was cruising. I felt great, looked great (as great as I can look anyway), and turned in sizzling splits of 7:35, 7:20, 7:33, 7:34.  There would be only 10K left at the 20-mile mark and I was way ahead of my Boston time.  It was a blast last year.

But it was now 12 months later on the very same course and the same miles were taking me down.  My legs were starting to rebel with every stride.  I decided to go to my arms in an effort to help my legs and draw on my core.  If one part of your body falters, use another.  I stayed tall in my posture and kept turning the legs.  My splits were falling off badly, so I decided that I would no longer fight it.  I would run some “9:00’s” and enjoy the rest of the race.

I covered these miles in 8:22, 8:14, 8:42 and 9:00 at mile 20.

Miles 21-24 – What was that?

As I entered the water stop at mile 20.5 it felt like someone had shot me in the leg.  A charley horse grabbed me and as I looked down at the knot in my left calf all I could think of was Dom.  I went up on my left toe to take pressure off of the muscle that was in full spasm and asked a volunteer if he could help me rub it out.  His name was Mark, he looked me in the eye and said, “no problem man – I’ll get you back out there”.

He rubbed the knot out and I took a moment to thank him for helping me – I told him that today was a day where we couldn’t DNF (did not finish).  No matter what happened we were getting that medal for Dom.  Mark patted me on the back and I got back underway.

I had gotten back after it and at the mile 21 marker I looked at my GPS – 13:02 was my split.  Wow.  I had lost about 4 minutes getting that charley horse to calm down.  But as disappointing as it was, a great sense of relief came over me.  Time no longer was an issue.  It simply didn’t matter. 

Overcoming set-backs and conquering obstacles that you can’t control are all things that Dom has been doing for the last year.  I quickly mumbled, “get over it” to myself and looked up ahead to the next section of the course.  I would never look at my watch again.

At mile 22 I saw a runner walking in the middle of the course and drifting to the side.  Short hair, stocky build, red singlet, Kermit?  Sure enough number 666 was struggling in front of me.  I slowed to ask him if he was doing o.k., and with a blank expression he said, “no man, I’m really not”.

I had been prepared to hear a quick, “yeah, I’m fine” or a “just a cramp”, but this was very different.  I slowed to a walk, put my arm around him and asked if he wanted to walk a little bit with me.  He said yes and we walked for a minute or so.  He told me how disappointed he was and that he wouldn’t make Boston.  I told him that he would get there and that the humidity and heat just bit him today.  No shame in that as it was a brutal day with rain still falling on us.  He learned a lot and would get that Boston time in his next race.

Kermit thanked me and after another minute or so when I knew his legs were back under him I asked if he cared that I run on.  He told me to go for it and that he would be fine.  Off I went and started to get into my groove going again.  Shortly afterwards at mile 23 I ran into another pair of struggling runners.

One was pacing the other and I asked if I could join them.  They introduced themselves as Father Jonathan and Father Patrick.  Father Jonathan was also going for a Boston time, but had fallen off badly.  The weather and course was really eating up the runners.  As we ran together they asked me, “Who’s Dom?”.

I shared a short version of the story and Father Patrick said that we should run mile 23 for Dom.  They both said a prayer in his name.  Well, at this point your emotions are at their breaking point during a marathon and I lost it.  I sniffled like a little boy and we ran the next mile and a half chatting about what today was all about.

The pace was a bit too slow for me to hold however and my calf began tightening – I said goodbye, thanked them and told them I would catch them at the finish line.

Miles 20-24 were completed in 13:02, 9:39, 10;22, 10:53.  Some of the finest miles I had ever run.

Mile 25 – Alone again

I ran most of mile 25 alone and started reflecting on what the finish would be like.  We had come a long way since last August and I really wanted to enjoy these final moments.  I knew my wife, family and friends must be worried about me as I should have finished the course by now.  But we were just fine.  Better than fine.  We were about to finish our second marathon in 13 days and honor my good friend fighting for his life the way I wanted to.  Fighting, scratching, clawing – doing anything we could to get to the finish.

I ran mile 25 in 8:43 and felt remarkably good in doing it.  I found myself smiling as I ran.

Mile 26 to the Finish

As I entered the final mile I saw a runner that I had started the day with running virtually identical pace for the first 10 miles.  He was on the side of the course walking with his head down.

“No way” I said to myself – he ran beautifully today and one way or another he was coming in with me.  I asked how he was doing and he shook his head.  Bad cramps in his legs he told me.  He had remembered me too from earlier and as I introduced myself while we walked along he told me his name was Gates.  He was a third year Med Student in Pittsburgh.  He asked about my friend and I told him the story.

Ironically he said that it’s all about mind over body.  He believed that attitude could help a cancer patient beat that disease almost as much as modern medicine.

I smiled at him and told him that it was the same for marathoners and that we should get going and finish this thing right.  He laughed and we started moving again.  Gates was going to finish his first marathon and look good doing it.

As we prepared to make the final turn to the finish line I spotted my friend Jason again and his brother Brian who had finished his first half marathon about 1 hour and 45 minutes earlier.  I yelled to Brian to join me on the course and we ran in the final .25 together.

Final .10 Mile

I was running the final 1/10 of a mile of Run for Dom and I was having a blast.  I couldn’t stop smiling and started to egg on the crowd at the finish.  They had waited in the rain for well over 3 hours and they deserved something to cheer about.  As I waved my arms up and down they started to yell and cheer for us – just as the Run for Dom team wearing their Run for Dom T-shirts did in the grandstand at the finish.

3:42:32 the clock said as I crossed through the line.  20 minutes slower than two weeks ago at Boston, 25 minutes slower than my effort one year ago.  There wasn’t a person there sharing the moment with me that could have cared less.  Myself included.

No matter how many marathons follow in the coming years I know one thing for sure.

It wasn’t my fastest, but it will always be my Personal Best.

Family Reunion Area – Post Race

One of the most memorable post race periods I have ever had.  I saw Gates in the finishing chute and was able to give him a fist bump and congratulate him on finishing his first Marathon.  I ran into Father Jonathan and gave him a congratulatory hug and thanked him again for his thoughts and prayers about Dom.

Kermit showed up about 5 minutes later – he had managed to push through and finish his race.  Not a Boston time, but I know he will be back to fight again another day.

Then I started to see my family and friends – Dawn, Nancy, John, Jason, Brian, Val and Dom.  We laughed a little, cried a little, hugged a lot and I was able to have just a few private words with Dom.

Joe & Dom Post Race

We shared a few tears, made a few promises to each other and thanked one another for the gift of the day.  Dom thanked me for running for him and I thanked him for letting me.  I thanked him for teaching me about what courage, honor and bravery are really all about.

I passed my finishers medal over to Dom which was something I had been looking forward to doing for more than 9 months.  It felt better than I could have ever imagined as this day was clearly all about him.

Dom With His Finisher's Medal

It was a long day, a tough day and an emotional day.  Most of all it was a day where we all stood a little taller, smiled a little easier and felt like we had all been part of something special. 

It felt that way because it was true.  I’m not sure when the next time I pin a number on my chest to run a race will be.  The only thing I do know is that it will never be the same again for me.

Thank you for showing me the way Dom.  Sunday May 2, 2010 is a day I will never forget.

 

Wohoo!  It’s race week again at Run for Dom.  Today (Sunday) marks the one-week mark in preparing for marathon number two in as many weeks.  Over the past few days I have really started to feel the soreness moving out of my hips and quadriceps compliments of those damn Newton Hills at Boston and I’m starting to feel pretty good frankly.

Sunday Recover/Taper Run

This morning called for a 6-mile run which was splitting the difference between the traditional 4 miler I schedule one week after a marathon and the usual 8 miler I run one week before a marathon.  So, 6 miles sounded just about right.  I have to admit that there really isn’t a “playbook” for what I am doing right now.  Even the most detail oriented training plans do not spell out how to prepare for two marathons in 13 days – so I’m “winging it” a little quite frankly.  With the exception of the lingering soreness in my outer hips – compliments of the towns of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham and Natick – we’re starting to feel pretty “decent”.  I wrapped up the 6 miles Sunday in 43:02 at 7:10 pace.  Not too shabby only 6 days post-Boston Marathon.

I know the fitness level is there to cover the 26 mile, 385 yard course at Pittsburgh.  There are no real “injuries” to manage on race day as I am about as healthy as you can be after completing the gauntlet that is the Boston Marathon course.  The only real question I have right now is how early in the race will muscle fatigue set-in and at what point will the usual “in-race muscle rebellion” begin.

I have been looking back at my Boston race in a more analytical way over the past two days – removing the emotions of it and really dissecting what happened over those 3 hours and 22 minutes.  As I mentioned in my race report, it was a day that very early on I realized I simply didn’t “have it”.  There were two other things about Boston that really threw me off of my game:

1.  The late start time, (I usually start my runs at 5:30 a.m. CST) – did a 10:00 a.m. start throw off my nutrition plan?  Should I have eaten more after a 6:30 p.m. dinner the night before and the starter’s gun at 10:00 a.m. than my usual pre-race banana and bagel?  In hindsight – yes.  I burned close to 3,000 calories during the race at Boston and I really feel like my tank was empty over the final 10K.

2.  The early downhill sections – I definitely did not prepare for how steep those hills were.  Not knowing the course made me believe that my hill training was sufficient.  I know now that less speed work and more hill repeats are required for the next time I prepare for Boston.

So as I look ahead to the Pittsburgh Marathon and a course that I know well from last year’s race – I am looking forward to minimizing all outside influences this week and sticking to the things that I know. 

With a 7:30 a.m. EST start-time our nutrition plan should work out just as it did a year ago on our way to our Personal Best 3:17:43.  I also have a road map of sorts by looking at my mile splits and pace over the first half of the course to know I will be ready for the climb up Forbes at mile 13 to the top of the course. 

It will really be a matter of trying to gauge my muscle strength early in the race to determine just how empty our tank is from racing at Boston and if we can “run our race” or if I need to dial back the throttles quite a bit and simply shoot for a 3:30 – 3:45 kind of pace and simply enjoy the day and finish what we started by honoring Dom and his courageous battle against cancer the right way.

I will be posting a full course preview on Tuesday as I dive back into all of my race materials from a year ago and re-examine all of my mile splits from the 2009 race.  We should have our full “battle plan” finalized at that time and I should have a pretty good gauge as to how I am going to feel after my run that morning.

The weather forecast should also become a bit more clear by mid-week, right now the extended forecast is calling for temperatures around 60 at the start of the race and rain.  Not exactly what I would pick if I had the choice for race day, so we’ll hope that forecast changes between now and the starter’s gun.

Whatever the challenges on Sunday May 2nd we’ll be there to meet them head on.  I’m a marathoner afterall, and that’s what we do.