2015: My Physical Year

What is there to say about my physical year? I did more than I did in 2014, but still not nearly enough. It’s never enough. I could beat myself up over that, but instead, I’ll let the numbers do the talking.

Running

  • I ran 1383.6 miles in 2015. That’s about 300 more than in 2014. I was shooting for 2000 (again) and guess what? I failed (again).
  • Those 1,383.6 miles were spread across 176 sessions, for an average of 7.85 miles per run. In total, I spent a little over 228 hours running.
  • Nearly half my running (631 miles) was done in Prospect Park where I ran 80 different times.
  • My longest runs were my two marathons, Vermont City and New York City. I also ran one other race, the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

Cycling

  • For my fortieth birthday this year, E got me a very nice bike. So far, I’ve put 416 miles on it.
  • I also put 206.8 miles on my dear old Pista for a total of 622.8 cycling miles in about fifty hours.

Swimming and other stuff

  • I swam a bit this year as well, not much, but some. It ended up being only about 5 miles in only about three hours.
  • In addition to my running races, I also did the New York City Triathlon, which I loved, and which I hope to do again this year.
  • I also did the occasional body weight work, but not enough to really track.

Conclusions

I had high hopes of this year, but again did not meet them. I think in the coming year, I need to revaluate how much time I really have, and how much commitment I genuinely have, and set my goals appropriately. But that’s for a post for a later day.

Race Autopsy: Vermont City Marathon

The day started as it always does, with coffee and a crying baby.  As E got the little dude dressed, I packed the provisions in the car, chugged a bunch of water, and ate a bagel. Forty minutes later, and forty five minutes before the start, we were pulling into Burlington. I had expected to park in the same lot I’d parked in when I ran this race five years ago, but it was full. As was the five story parking garage near church street, and the side streets all around.

Thirty minutes to start time and I have nowhere to park the car.

We’re off to a great start.

Twenty five minutes to start time, E tells me to park it in a drug store parking lot. “It says parking for customers only”, I say, “and even then, only for an hour”.

“I’ll handle it” she says.

And, though I leave her with a screaming baby, and a car she cannot drive, she does — because she is amazing.

On to the start, where I find Joe. We hit the porta potties. We wait. We fret. And then the gun goes off and we run.

The first miles fly by; we cruise along trying to keep the pace somewhere between 8:50 and 9. We want to go faster, but we play it as conservative as we can. More than anything today, I want to break four hours. I’ve been at this running game awhile and I feel like it is finally time to join the big boys. I put together one of the best training blocks of my life, basically injuring free, and (for me at least) consistent. Of course I worry it wasn’t enough.

Turns out, I was right.

The miles fly by. We chat with an older woman who’s run 75 marathons and swum across Lake Champlain. We see some of the fast dudes who’ve filled out the Boston Qualifer Questionnaire. We chat about what we always chat about: running, getting old, and why the hell we continue to live in NYC when any rational person would have left years ago.

I’m having a good time. By the halfway mark, I feel strong and the miles seem easy.\ I want to keep it conservative. Joe is feeling like picking it up. I let him go. He’ll go on to his own struggles, but will finish far ahead of me. At the bottom of the mile 15 hill, I see E and the Little Dude. He gives me a high five. Everything is going well.

But that hill is long, and by the end of it, I’m starting to feel the miles. I carry on, trying to keep the pace. By mile 18, my calf, and then my groin, begin to cramp. At first it’s just a little tweak. It’s almost eighty degrees so no surprise that I’m feeling it.  I drink at the aid stations, trying to keep any serious cramping at bay. The four hour pace group passes me. My dreams for the day start to fade. But by mile 22, I am cramping so badly, I can’t walk. I actually stumble just outside the mile 22 water station. EMTs help me to a chair, ice my legs and give me Gatorade.

“We can get a car to come get you”.

“I’m almost there, I’ll finish”.

And so I do. The 4:15 pace group passes me. Then the 4:30. I hobble along. I run until I cramp up, then I walk, then I run again. I am not a pretty sight. I try to run the final mile, but my left leg seizes up again and I almost go down. This time, it happens right by the beer tent. People see me hobbling and they cheer me on, shouting my name.

I’m embarrassed.

I was hoping to do much better than this.  But whether it was a lack of training, or a nutrition issue, this isn’t my day. I cross the line in 4:39:27. Not my worst performance in the marathon, but certainly not my best.

The marathon is fickle. You put so much time and energy into training for it and then, it can all go so wrong. I find is humbling, frustrating, and, frankly, addictive.

New York has got to be different. I’ll need to up the training game, both in terms of mileage and speed work, but perhaps most importantly, consistency.  And though I’ve resisted it for years, I’m going to have to learn about nutrition. Expect more posts about all of that in the future.

Now its two days later and I’m planning my revenge.  Today, I’ll rest my legs, drink water, work my sore muscles with the stick.

Tomorrow, I’m going to go for a run.

Any race that ends with sharing a medal with this guy isn't all bad.

Any race that ends with sharing a medal with this guy isn’t all bad.

This Years Main Events

Last night, it became official – I’m running the New York Marathon in November. And with that, my racing schedule for the year is pretty much set. More for my own amusement than anything else, here’s what my endurance year is looking like — goals are in order of importance (yes, sometimes finishing is more important than having fun):

Date Event Goal
May 16 Brooklyn Half-Marathon A: Enjoy myself

B: See what the legs have for Vermont two weeks later

C: PR

D: sub 1:45

May 24 Vermont City Marathon A: PR

B: Sub 4

July 19 New York City Triathlon A: Relearn how to do triathlons

B: PR

C: Sub 3:00

Late August Presidential Traverse A: Finish

B: Have fun

November 1 New York City Marathon A: PR

B: Sub 3:45

 

I’ll surely add some 5ks and 10ks here and there, and I’m thinking about doing an open water race in June, but these are the goal events. I’ve never had this many goal races in a single year. It’s a little intimidating, but also very exciting.

So far, I’m happy with how the training for Vermont is going. I’m running better than I have in a long time and I’m excited to see what this aging body can do. If I can stay healthy, this is going to be a hell of a year.

Vermont City Marathon Race Report

The synopsis

If for some unknown reason you don’t want to read seven hundred words on my running of the Vermont City Marathon here it is in a sentence.

I ran VCM in 4:27:16 smashing my previous marathon PR of 5:45.

The Lead Up

Ah Vermont, the land of Ben and Jerry’s, beautiful vistas and some of the largest mountains on the East Coast. It is gorgeous, and a great place to run.

On Friday night, I flew up from D.C. meeting E at the Burlington airport and then taking a cab to Stowe, where we were staying. Slept for a good eight hours and then spent the day with my parents who also made the trip.  Went to the expo, sat around the house chilling, and basically freak out with nerves about the coming race. Saturday night E made a delicious pasta dinner and I was in bed by ten o’clock where I proceeded to toss and turn for hours.

Sunday I was up at five, had two eggs and toast and was out the door by six fifteen. I was at the race start by 7:30, and then proceeded to wait in line for the bathroom for twenty minutes before dashing to the start to line up with the 4:45 pace group and listen for the start of the gun.

The Race

I had promised myself that I would go out slow in this race, and I did… sorta. I stuck with the 4:45 pace group for the first couple of miles. About four miles in, the two leaders of the 4:45 group decided to split up, one of them would be doing a steady jog for the length of the race and the other would pick up some speed on the downhills in order to make up for time lost on the uphills (Vermont is really hilly). I went with the woman who was banking time on the downhills and then when the first uphill start around mile six, I just couldn’t bring myself to slow down. Instead, I went on ahead alone.

Somewhere around mile eight I met up with a woman and ran with her until around mile 8, where to my astonishment, I’d caught the 4:30 pace group. I was a little nervous that this meant I had gone too fast, too early, but decided to just say screw it and stick with this bunch. The 4:30 pace group leader was great, just the kind of talkative, supportive person I needed, especially in those last five miles. A pace group is an interesting thing, as the miles piled up a group of ten of us stayed with the leader and created a sort of peer pressure group which assured that none of us were going to slow down. Around mile twenty four, a guy named Nam and I took off ahead of the pace group leader and just gave it all of what little we had left. Nam clearly had more than I did and pull away from me at mile 25. I just kept pushing, trying to ignore the pain in my knees and hips and crossed the line at 4:27:16.

me, making my "that's right haters" face

Summing Up

Reflecting generally on the race, I’d say it is a fun run. It is hilly, with an especially steep incline around mile 15, some of the course got pretty lonely, with little crowd support, but maybe that was just because I am slow. The weather wasn’t bad until the last couple of miles where the temperature had climbed into the eighties. I enjoyed the race, but I don’t think I will do this one again. Next year, I’d like my spring marathon to be a little earlier to avoid the chance of high temperatures.

On my performance, I’m really very happy with my time. I had no idea going into it what I was capable of doing. I would have been happy with anything under 4:45, and going under 4:30 is really pretty fucking great for me.

Now, of course, I can’t stop thinking about going under four hours.

100 days and a marathon battle plan

100 days

I got up this morning, and like I have done every day for the last 100 days, I ran. It was just three miles in a muggy Washington D.C. morning, up the 16th street hill and back down. I didn’t went without headphone and thought about my race this weekend, about the time I have put in, and about how to approach the race.

With this marathon, I wish I had run more and done some speed work, but fearful of getting injured again, I kept the training to just light miles. Still, I had eight weeks over thirty miles a week and three of those were over forty. I have focused on nutrition on my long runs and think I have that locked down. My hip is for some reason sore, but I am hoping a couple of days of very light running, plus stretching and massage will help with that. Regardless, I will run this race as smart and as fast as I can, and here is how I plan to do it:

The Plan:

Perhaps the reason it has taken me so long to write up my plan for this race is that I’m just not sure what the best strategy is for doing my absolute best. Currently, here is what I am thinking.

The night before will be a traditional pasta dinner with E and family, I’ll probably have a single glass of wine and drink a ton of water. Before bed, I will lay out what I will wear the next day and ensure that I have everything I need: bib, shorts, sunglasses, singlet, shoes, socks, gels.  I’ll attempt to go to bed early, but will probably toss and turn most of the night.

Morning of: Coffee, toast and eggs at five am. Lots of water. This has been my breakfast before all my long runs in training and I think it has worked well.  I’ll try and use the john before I head out of the house around 6:00. I’m staying almost an hour from the race start, and I want to make sure I give myself plenty of time before the gun goes off.

Race: The race begins at 8:00 am. I plan on lining up with the 4:45 pace group, and will stay with them through the fifteen mile point at least. I WILL NOT GO OUT FAST. I WILL BE SMART.  I WILL LET PEOPLE WHO ARE CLEARLY IN WORSE SHAPE PASS ME.

Regarding nutrition, I’ll take the cliff shot blocks I have used in training; the first one 1 hour in and then 1 every 45 minutes after that. I’ll drink water, and not Gatorade, as often as feels necessary.

If after fifteen miles I feel like I have something more than 4:45 in my legs, I will try and pick it up. Ideally, I’d like to run this thing in closer to 4:30 than 4:45, but what I really don’t want to do is blow up and end up crawling the last part of the race. Under no circumstances will I let the 4:45 pace group get ahead of me. I KNOW I can finish this marathon in less than that, I just know it.

This race will be a learning experience for me. My last marathon, was a disaster, an I hope that by being properly trained, starting off slow and replicating the nutrition plan which worked for me in training, I can avoid major problems. I expect to make mistakes, but hopefully none which are too serious. My hope is to finish somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45 without injury or major incident. I’ll lay everything I have on getting this done in less than 4:45.