Thursday, April 24, 2014

Race Day: 118th Boston Marathon

It's very difficult writing a summary of such an amazing experience. From the moment our plane landed in Boston I felt a buzz like no other race. Last years race was an amazing experience and had a buzz like most normal Boston years but this year was different. Maybe I wanted it to feel different, but I don't think it was just that. I was wearing last years marathon jacket and people noticed. I got many smiles and "good luck" as we traveled. We got to Boston really late after a full day of travel, so it was a quick "hi" to some friends as we checked in and quickly off to bed.

Sunday was a day to balance having fun but also keeping in mind I had to finish a 26'er the next day. As we made our way to the convention center the city was cranking with excitement. The check-in and packet pick up was smooth as butter and we made our way to the expo and visited as many booths as we could fit in before getting hungry and needing to find food. I had one or two spots on the radar and I wanted to go check them out. Boylston Street served as the marathon finish stretch and finish line. It's famous. If you were to watch the marathon on TV the announcers almost always make it a point to shout out, "Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston to the finish". It's an amazing feeling to run that stretch and many, many people hang out to watch. It was also the site of the two explosions last year, one of which was right in front of a bar/restaurant called Forum. They had room for two hungry runners and we made our way in to have a wonderful lunch. I didn't say anything but I just took in the site of it all and paid my respects to those harmed one year ago.  After lunch we continued down Boylston and visited the memorial at the site of the first explosion. It was a moment I needed. I took in a few deep breathes, shed a few tears and just walked away not really saying much outloud. Not many people were. We did what we needed to do and it was time to continue the day of activity and get ready for the big race tomorrow.

Monday was the kind of day most marathoners dream of. I woke up and it was 36F with the sun on the horizon. I had a small breakfast and then quickly made my way to the buses that would take us to the start. This year there were no gear bags allowed on the bus to Hopkinton. What ever a runner wanted he/she wore and could carry a small amount of food/water bottle with them. What that meant was, the clothes that were on your back you would be leaving for the local needy as the clothing would be collected and brought to a shelter. We looked a bit ragged but it was a good idea. I actually found a pair of running tights/jacket in my closet that was 13 years old! I guess it was time to say goodbye to some old friends.

After lounging in the athletes village in the sun for a bit it was time to make our way to the starting line and ready ourselves for the run to Boylston Street. One heads to the starting line about 45 minutes before the gun goes off. There are 4 waves of 9000 people so they have to start early. I was in the first wave, about 1000 people deep into the field as they have you lined up according to ones qualifying time. As the sun beat down on us I knew right away it would be a day that would require diligent fluid intake to help ward off any late race fatigue. *more on that later

The gun went off and we were sent on our way. The first 4 miles are an insane downhill and it you really need to monitor your pace and keep things under control. I had one problem. My Nike GPS watch would not link up to the satellites and I had no pace indicator. I was running on effort and once I knew my watch was not going to be part of the race I just turned on the timer so later in the race I could attempt to do some math and measure a mile here and there. (I would mark the 2-3 mile and was running 6:05 pace which was 25 seconds per mile too fast) After the watch issue I was just running on my effort and keeping myself loose and attempting to keep my legs/quads relaxed as I ran down the steeps. Early in the race, somewhere near 10K I realized I would have to be monitoring my muscles and really concentrating on keeping them loose as I could as they just were not feeling good. I really never had the feeling like I was floating and easy like I usually do for most of the first half of my marathons. Today would be a day I consider a "mental marathon". They all are at some point, but for me, the entire race required me constantly monitoring my legs, arms, stomach and making sure I didn't forget to do anything along the way.

As the race miles clicked past I kept using the aid stations for one/two cups of Gatorade and one cup of water. In fact, I took fluid from mile 2 to 25. I did NOT miss one aid station and took fluid from them all. I had to as the sun was beating down and race temps at the finish would reach into the low 70's. In total I took in all the fluid mentioned plus 7 Poweraide Sports Gels with caffeine in addition to 7 S-Caps (salt tablets with 300mg sodium each) and I had consumed all this by mile 23. I figured I had enough fuel to make it to the finish. Wrong! At mile 24 my quads went from severe fatigue to severe pain! I call it the type of pain that feels like someone beat you with a baseball bat. (im guessing) The last 2 miles are a beauty and if you are lucky, you can really pass some people along a stretch that has hundreds of thousands spectators! I did my best shuffle and kept things rolling. At 25.5 miles there is one more small downhill that hurts like hell and then its time for the finish.  My wife and I had set a place for her to watch and I looked but didn't see her so I figured I missed her. (we had missed each other last year as I was looking on the wrong side of the street) This year the screams were more pronounced than last and I knew it would be near impossible to see her, but then I heard it. I heard, "GREGG!!". As I looked back over my left shoulder I saw Kari leaning over the fence and screaming, so I pointed to her, gave her a thumbs up and returned to focus on my footing moving forward. I turned onto Boylston and had to really keep my emotions in check. I ran/shuffled my way to the finish but not before making my way to the sidewalk area in front of the Forum to pay my respects one last time. I high-fived one of the spectators right in front and blew them all a kiss and thank you before making my way to the finish.

Crossing the line of any marathon is an amazing feeling. Crossing this years Boston was nothing shy of amazing and I really felt great. My legs were toast. I just wanted to sit down but it takes some time to get through all the aid station area and then off to meet family. At the end of a long finish/recovery area I met my wife and we hugged and then walked to the Hostel nearby.

It was a great day. The organizers, volunteer's, and spectators were nothing short of spectacular and that race will forever by in my heart. Thank you all!

As for all of my family and friends that supported me and gave me well wishes along the way, thank you to you as well. There are times in a marathon where all you want to do is stop because it is instant relief from the pain you are feeling. Problem is, it is tough to get started again and makes it really easy to stop again. So I used all your well wishes and support as well as the crowds to keep going and not stop. My mantra in my head, and sometimes out loud was, "just don't stop, just don't stop, keep on moving". You do what you have to do to get to the finish.

Boston Marathon:
2:54:11 (6:39 pace)
1379 place

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week 15 & 16: Mini Taper

I had to recover off the 25K I did last weekend and I was a bit surprised how banged up I got from that. It was supposed to be a marathon-pace effort run, which it was, but the course was a tough one and it took a bit out of my legs and caused a bit of a stink in one of my calves that would take better part of a week to iron out. The pace part felt great and I knew if I could just get my legs to cooperate come Patriots day I just might have a decent marathon. Might being the key word there.
I had one last long effort to squeeze in and I managed to do that on a Friday morning as I took the day off work to get in all the recovery aid.

Here are the last two weeks leading up to Boston:

April 7-13
M: 8 miles 1:02:00
T: 0 miles, needed sleep, rest
W: 10.1 miles, 1:15:00
Th: 8 miles, 59:25
F: 18 miles, 2:14:50, Skyline *calve issues at end
Sa: 2 miles, calf issues
Su: 2 miles, calf issues

Total: 48 miles

April 14-20th
M: 3.3 miles  25:29
T: 3.4 miles 25:42
W: 4.1 miles   31:06
Th: 3.7 miles 26:12
F: 0 miles
Sa: 0 miles
Su: 0 miles * a ton walking in Boston

Total: 15 miles

Years Total: 856 miles

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Week 14: Snow Storms and Time Trials

This week turned the page on March and April presented us with yet another hit of snow that would cripple the school systems one last time. (hopefully) I had a good week going and recovered from last weeks 20 miler quite well and nailed a 13 miler on the treadmill that felt very pedestrian as I finished the last 4 miles under 6:25 pace. Friday we got nailed with 10" of fresh, wet snow and I couldn't clear a path quick enough to make it to the gym so I took a zero from running but not from weight training as 2 hours of shoveling and such made up for a lack of SNAP time!

It was a last minute decision but my training partner and I made the decision to wake up early on Saturday and go run the Ron Daws 25K in Hopkins. I made a few contacts Friday night to make sure the course would be cleared and it was happily reported that the snow was indeed melting very quickly. If you haven't run this race it's one to get on the calendar and support the fine people of MDRA, the ones that organize a great, challenging, hilly race that serves a pre-Boston marathoner with more than enough checklists to gauge ones fitness for the big dance in two weeks. I was very happy with how things went for me as the pace was super easy and one that I believe I can hold for another 17K as long as my calves hold out. This race course is hilly and it took a toll on my calves which was an unexpected surprise. Since then I have received a massage and will stretch diligently the next two weeks to keep things loosey-goosey.

I have my last longer effort Friday morning and then it will be relax time for 10 days. I think, given the hamstring issues I had in early March, I set myself up for a decent race come April 21st. I'm not in fast-shape, but I have been able to get a decent aerobic condition under my belt and that should allow me to hold my own and have fun and run with my head up this year and high five the crowd! Watch out Wellsley Girls, I just might stop!

March 31st-April 6th
M: 5.2 miles, 42:43,  extended cemetery, easy miles
T: 7.5 miles,  54: 54, treadmill miles, easy
W: 13.2 miles, 1:33:00, treadmill uptempo, closed in 6:22
Th: 7.1 miles, 56:19, Vermilion loop to snowmo trails
F: 0 miles, snowstorm
Sa: 16.5 miles total: Ron Daws 25K 1:37:50/ 6:18 pace, felt super, calves tight
Su:  5 miles, 40:11, concerned, very sore

Total: 55 miles (6 runs)

Years Total: 793 miles

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Weeks 12 & 13: Gaining Some Ground Back

It's been a slow return to shape but I would have to say the last two weeks I have been gaining a little form back and starting to feel like my old self again. The long run this past Sunday really helped with some much needed confidence and I now actually feel like I will be able to run Boston with some decent form and respectable time. As I write, we have just under three weeks until race day and I intend to use each and everyday to my maximum to gain any extra fitness I can to have a wonderful experience. I think I'll be ok.  As far as the injury goes, the hamstring feels pretty good when I'm running but remains to be a little tight and I also have a little residual calf tightness in the same leg. I hope a good massage and stretch routine over the next week or so will iron that out.

Here are the last two weeks of training. It's nothing to brag about but I'm feeling better and that is all I can ask for right now.

March 17-23
M: 0 rest day
T: 12.6 miles, 1:32:00 felt good, *adam appt.
W: 3 miles, 30:00, treadmill *frustrated, very tight/sore
Th: 9.4 miles, 1:06:00, quicker miles in middle
Sa: 14 miles, 1:53:00, very windy and cold, poor footing
Su: 11.7 miles, 1:28:00 easy miles

Total: 59 miles

March 24-30
M: 5 miles, 41:50, easy recovery miles
T: 8 miles, 1:03:00, treadmill easy running + exercises
W: 13.1 miles, 1:31:02, Skyline, negative split run, very happy
Th: 4.7 miles, 38:08, extended cemetery
F: 10.5 miles, 1:15:30, smooth feeling good
Sa: 9.4 miles, 1:17:28, easy rolling miles, no issues
Su: 20.2 miles, 2:26:37, negative split run, hills of Lakewood, LRR. Very good!

Total: 71 miles

Years Total: 738 miles

Monday, March 17, 2014

Week: 9-11; Middle-Aged Injuries

The last post I entered I mentioned I had some sore butt muscles and tight hamstrings. Well, they worked themselves right into a full blown injury that has kept me at bay for the last three weeks. They got really tight and actually spasmed up to the point I couldn't safely run. One week was mostly zero running and a couple of trips to see Adam at DCC. He made things loosen quickly but the muscles remained tight and I was only making small progress over week two. This past week I managed to "jog" a measly 52 miles all at a relatively slow pace. It has been three weeks since any quality work and my time is limited until I have to line up in Hopkinton on April 21st. The last bit of running I did was mostly "tight" muscles and really no spasms or pain but still, a tightness that didn't allow for any quality to the run.

So here I sit. I am 5 weeks out from one of the worlds biggest running stages and I am banged up. Bad! I want to make it to the start and run a respectable time, but really, who am I kidding?  At this point I am hoping for the next five weeks to allow me to first, get rid of the injury, and second, make some progress in my training to allow me to have a good time and make the best out of a bad situation. Times are not relevant right now and I just want to be part of history and run America's greatest marathon.

In other news, we are supposed to get a pile of snow tomorrow. It's March 17th!! Let's please move on with the season and welcome Spring!

Here are the last three weeks of my so-called running:

Feb 24- March 2rd
M: 0
T: 3 mi. treadmill run. no-go
W: 0
Th: 2 miles, Adam appt.
F: 0
Sa: 3.3 miles, Hartley
Su: 3.3 miles, treadmill, Still Sucks!!
Week: 12 miles

March 3-9
M: 30:00 spin sesh, Adam appt
T: 0, stretches
W: 30:00, 4 miles, still tight, Strength work
Th: 33:00 4.4 miles
F: 43:00, 5.1 miles, cemetery/umd + exercises
Sa: 1:26:00 9.1 miles, pub shuffle pre run
Su: 1:13:00 9.3 miles/ pm 3.2 miles
Week: 35 miles

March 10-16
M: 30:00 spin sesh
T: 1:11:45, 9.2 miles
W: 42:00, 5 miles,
Th: 58:00, 7.7 miles
F: 1:03:00, 8.1 miles
Sa: 1:10:20, 9.1 miles
Su: 1:30:00, 12.5 miles
Week: 52 miles *slow but able to run most days

Years Total: 608 miles

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week 7 & 8: Slight Volume Bump/ Sore Butt Muscles

I didn't make it to the computer last week to type of the weeks summary. I did a decent bump in mileage and managed a few doubles in the process. The amount of time it takes to hit 90-100 miles per week boggles my mind. The days I did hit some doubles I felt like the day was over and all I said to my son and wife were "good morning and good night". It wasn't a pleasant week. I figure with the added hours of light to each day those will become easier. I'm hoping. 

I managed a couple decent tempo style workouts and even fit in a 10K ski race. The race was more like a "tour" for me but at any rate I burned some calories and made a few muscles really sore that had not had a workout in some time. 

This past week I found myself really tired on Monday so I rested an extra 90 minutes and it payed off huge! The rest of the week I had no troubles getting my runs in and had good energy most days. My runs on Friday through Sunday were plagued with a really tight right upper hamstring/glute. I also have quite a bit of tightness in my right psoas muscle. There is definitely something brewing there and I need to attend to it ASAP. I used some massage balls and roller last night and it did respond but there is still a lot of junk to work out to get things running smoothly again. That is goal number one for this upcoming week. If that issue gets ironed out quickly, my second goal is to maintain mileage and hit 85-90 for the week. I need a few more bigger weeks before settling and really honing in on some specific pace workouts. 

The weather here in Duluth remains to play a big part in my running quality. I am getting in some volume runs but really there is little to no quality in any part of them. The only quality I have hit has been on the treadmill and those are once a week. I have a 10 mile race coming up to test the waters on pace and that will really set me up for the final push in my last phase of training heading to Boston. I'm hoping for the best!

Feb. 10-16
M: am: 1:03:00, 8.2 miles treadmill easy
     pm: 37:40,  4.4 miles easy trails
T: 1:07:00,  8.2 miles  woodland area
W: am: 1:14:20  10.8 miles, treadmill *6.5 miles at 5:56-6:00 pace
     pm: 50:00, 6 miles,   park point
Th: 1:23:0, 8.1 miles, slow snowy run
Fr: 1:11:19,  9 miles *Fartlek runs
S: am: 1:23:22,  10.1 miles, West Duluth miles
   pm: 55:00 , 6.2 mi ski, Book Across The Bay
Su: 2:06:00,  16.2 miles  W. Duluth, Skyline, Canal Park.

Week Total: 87 miles *10 runs

Feb. 17-23
M: off, tired and poor sleep all weekend.
T: am: 1:16:39,  10.1 miles, treadmill steady run
    pm: 35:00 spin at home on bike
W: 1:18:54, 11.1 miles, Vermilion to Tish, Billy's,Riley, Eagle, Vermilion, Home
                                     4,5,4,5 min at 5:35 pace tempo intervals.
Th: 1:34:21, 12.5 miles, West Skyline, Dunedin loop
F: 1:00:34,  8 miles, treadmill Snap, R ham tight
Sa: 2:29:30,  19 miles, Pike Lake  *bad glute/ham pain
Su: 1:30:00,  11 miles, old E superior street and back

Week Total: 72 miles *6 runs

Years Total: 509 miles

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Week 6: Forced Rest/ Crabby Long Run

This past week was not in the plans but sickness never is. I woke up and ran on Tuesday and had an "off" stomach and it then turned into a full on head cold over the rest of the week. I really burned through the virus, as I was ready for long runs by Sunday. In all I only took one day completely off and the rest of the days I altered my mileage and cut back to make sure I didn't over do it.

The weekends long run was just about as miserable as any long run has ever gone but we managed to get through it and once the run was over I felt quite a bit better as the mile splits were quicker than I thought. We mostly ran sub 7:30's in -10F weather with windchill's much lower than that. It was kind of funny as both Dave and I had an off day and spent the entire 2+ hours looking for better miles to come and they just never did. I guess a person needs to have some bad runs to appreciate the good ones.

Here is my week:

Feb 3-9th
Mon: 1:10:49  8.7 miles, Vermilion recovery miles
Tue: 1:09:13  8 miles, sick, stomach troubles, Hartley
Wed: 0 miles/ rest day off/ head cold brewing hard
Thr: 45:31  6 miles trails, feels ok
Fri: 1:09:52  7 miles trails faster downhills, feels ok
Sat: 1:20:34 10 miles, trails, feels good. legs a bit tired
Sun: 2:21:05  18.2 miles country roads/ Lester downhills

Total: 58 miles (6 days, sickness)

Years Total: 350 miles