Friday, April 22, 2011

Boston Report

Now seems to be the time to get this out of the way.

Sunday - We had a quick flight up to Beantown in the afternoon. Jinnie had never flown before, but I was probably more nervous. I don't really like to fly much. Upon arriving, we soon met up with Bo and his wife Maggie, who had graciously picked up my race bag for me. We had planned to go to the official Boston Marathon pasta dinner, but the line was further than the eye could see in the street, and the wait would have probably been an hour. So we found a little joint and we enjoyed eating and chatting with Bo about his plan for the race in the morning.

From there we got on the subway and headed for Cambridge. It's just across the Charles River, and we had a really nice hotel about a half mile from the subway station out there, near MIT. There are a lot of homeless people and panhandlers out there, by the way.

Monday - I got up before 5:30. I got all my race stuff together, had some food, etc. and headed for the subway and Boston Common. Jinnie's plan was to go to the finish line and hang out with Ben Hovis and cheer in the overall marathon winners, my speedier friends, and finally me! I arrived at the Common at 6:45, to see all of humanity waiting in line. Ugh, I wish I had gotten there 30 minutes earlier. I waited in line for about an hour, then pushed and squeezed onto a bus. The ride to Hopkinton took about an hour.

At the athletes village, again there were thousands of folks on the two large athletic fields, and other runners spread out in all directions. I remember in 2008, my brother gave me a ride to Hopkinton, and I was able to just lay around on the field for a couple hours with no worries. NOT THIS YEAR! Both the fields were surrounded with porta-jons, and they all had enormously long lines. I immediately got in line and waited for a seeming eternity, and finally took care of my business with only a few minutes until the start of the marathon. My corral had already been instructed to report to the start, and I was still quickly changing into my calf sleeves and race socks. Suddenly some dude comes over and says he likes my Uwharrie t-shirt, and shows off his Uwharrie race hat. Out of 27,000 runners, what are the chances?

I made a mad dash to put my race bag into the shuttle buses. Now it was only 10 minutes until 10:00. I didn't have time for my customary second trip to the porta-jons. I had to hustle to find corral 5. The sun was out, and it was definitely a singlet-only day, even with the gusty winds. I ditched my long sleeve throwaway shirt and the gun sounded.

The race: (Let me start by saying that my goal was only settled-upon in the last couple days before the race. Earlier I had wanted to run a 2:55. But during the couple weeks leading up to the race, my running was hampered by a very strange injury. I experienced much discomfort in my groin and abdomen for two solid weeks, while running/jogging and during all times of day as well. Rest seemed to help, so I hardly got in any good runs for this duration. My hope was to be rested for race day. I felt that I accomplished this, and I made my goal a sub-3 marathon, with hopes for the best.)

The Boston Marathon has one of the narrowest starting lines of any marathon in the world. It's a two lane road, with 27,000 runners, albeit in three separate wave starts. It is congested, to say the least, for several miles. My first mile clocked in at over 7:00, and my goal pace was about 6:50. I accelerated through the masses on mile 2, and settled into my groove once I saw my two mile time of 13:40. Right on pace now.

I felt pretty good. It felt fast, but definitely do-able. I clicked off several miles, and went over the timing/tracking maps at 5K, 10K, 15K, and 20K. I thought of my friends who were tracking me online, and how they were pulling for me to keep hitting these pace marks and hit my goal. It was a great feeling.

Then suddenly we hit the half marathon mark. I saw that I was at about 1:29:15. Only 13.1 miles to go! I thought I could pull this off. And Wellesley! The girls were screaming much more loudly than in 2008, in my opinion. I'm pretty sure I ran too fast in this section, as I was pretty pumped up. My thoughts were, "okay, let's go get these Newton Hills. A few more miles and we're there."

Oh, foolish me. I rolled past the 30K at a time of 2:07:55. Technically, I still had a shot at sub-3 hours. I was still very close to being on a perfect pace. But I knew my race plan was shot. We had just begun the Newton Hills, which culminate at Heartbreak Hill at mile 21. I was suddenly hurting badly, beginning after about 18 miles. I felt that I was crawling up the hills. I even thought of walking. The sun was baking me! The temperature wasn't very high, but the Boston course is almost completely exposed to the sun. I began pouring more and more water on my head to try to stay in the game mentally.

From here, it was survival. I began trying to run 7:30 or 8 minute miles; anything like that was fine with me, though it felt like I was running 15 minute miles. I just wanted to finish. Not finishing was not an option.

Finally we crested a little hill and I saw the famous Citgo sign in Boston. A couple more turns and mercifully we were on Boylston Street and heading for that distant finish line. I got there with a defeated shuffle. Finish time was 3:06:14.

Post-race: I've never felt so drained after any race. You have to walk a LONG WAY after you finish Boston. They make you walk forever to get a little water, then more to get your heat blanket, then more to get your medal, then more to get some food. With so many finishers coming through, it's just the way it is. I stopped repeatedly to sit on the curb and in wheelchairs. The volunteers repeatedly asked me if I was able to move. Perhaps I should have gone to the medical tent, but I guess I thought it was a hassle to do so. Finally I stood in line to get my race bag from the buses. But only for a moment, as I felt myself about to pass out. Apparently I was badly dehydrated. I found a spot in the street and sat there for about 15 minutes as I drank all the water I had. This made a big difference, and finally I stumbled out of the finishers area and found Jinnie, who was searching frantically for me nearby.

We had a seat as she filled me in on the race leaders and all my friends. It was a record-setting day for the winners, but a muted day somewhat for several of my friends. I felt bad for those who didn't quite reach their goals, and I felt pretty bad about my own race. But after some reflection, I felt much better. With my recent injury, I had been unsure if I could even run 26.2 miles at any respectable pace. It had worked out pretty well.

The rest of the day: kind of a blur.

Tuesday through Thursday: A lot of walking. A lot of subway riding. Some really cold and windy weather. We saw the entire Freedom Trail, and we really enjoyed that. The only downside was that the Bunker Hill monument was closed for renovation, so I didn't get to climb a billion stairs the day after the marathon. Oh well, next time.

We saw the National Park sites in Quincy for Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams; that was pretty cool. We went to the M.I.T. museum, which had a few mind-blowing exhibits. We walked around Harvard Square, and debated if every Supreme Court justice should necessarily be a Harvard alum. We ate a lot of food. A LOT of food. We looked at the ugly Boston City Hall, one of the ugliest buildings in the world. I started to talk like I was from Bah-ston. My groin and abdominal injury suddenly vanished on Thursday. Awesome!!! This is the best news of the trip, perhaps. We saw a girl hilariously fall in high heels. We finally came home after a pretty relaxing vacation in the big city.

It was a great trip. Marathon/Ultra #4 is in the books for 2011. Current schedule for the rest of the year (very, very subject to change):
May: New River Marathon
June: Roan Adventure Marathon (28 miles)
July: Grandfather Marathon
August: Laurel Valley 35 miler
September: Hinson Lake 24 Hour
October: Ridge To Bridge Marathon
November: Thunder Road Marathon
December: ALTAR

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 11, 2011

7 more days

Well, a week from now, the Boston Marathon will be over. I have decided that I will be happy to finish in under 3 hours. I could have trained harder...... but that always seems to be the case. For several weeks, I was running some decent speed workouts. Also, I had good overall mileage, with over 200 miles in a month at one point. But lately I've not been feeling great during my runs. I've laid off the speed work as well, as I try to just get comfortable running again. I figure the best thing at this point is to get to the starting line in Hopkinton as healthy and rested as possible.

But it's not as if I have no confidence at all. My race results in short races this year are actually better than at this time last year. Also, I've completed a marathon, a 50K, and a 40 Miler in the first three months of this year. I was out on the courses for nearly 17 and a half hours combined in those 3 events. So obviously, flat-out speed was not a goal then; but now it is.
So, the question is, can I combine the "decent" speed I've shown in short races, and the endurance that I have exhibited in pacing a marathon and finishing two ultra mountain runs???

Tune in next Monday to find out. I'm actually quite curious myself.

- I want to give a big shout-out to the Crazy Legs. These guys finished in 3rd place overall at this past weekend's Palmetto 200+ Mile Relay, from Columbia to Folly Beach, SC.
Crazy Legs was kind enough to let Jinnie and I be on their Blue Ridge Relay team last September, and we also enjoy occasionally running their "beer run" on Sunday evenings.
A few months ago, I half-committed to being a part of the Crazy Legs Palmetto team. But then I realized that it was a week before Boston, and I decided not to risk it. They obviously got a stellar team together though, and improved their time from the 2010 Palmetto race by a couple hours.
I'm eagerly anticipating another Blue Ridge Relay this September with Crazy Legs.

- One of my current goals is to use more of the loose change that gathers in my vehicles and my home. Also, I am ready to advocate for the abolition of all denominations of coinage except the quarter. Round all prices on all items to a round dollar or .25, .50, or .75. This is my crusade.

- I hear there may be a 50 Mile event circling around the Linville Gorge in December, put on by the Brown Mountain Running Club. Possibly about the time of year that the Thunder Road Marathon has vacated. Now this is intriguing to me.
: )

- I want to give a blanket "atta boy!" and "atta girl!" to everyone I know who may have done well or not so well at any running competition lately. There's just too many to list. So there ya go, consider yourself mentioned in Stan's blog.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

my apologies for wasting your time

This is my first blog post. I don't know why I have a blog. Maybe I'm starving for your attention and approval. If anyone has any tips, you can give them to me.

If you can think of any quality that is bad or undesirable, you can attribute that quality to me. If you read my posts, I'm sure you can find these attributes.

I really hope this blog improves. I hope I can think of some interesting things to do with it. Recently I was thinking about how we act differently in the presence of various people. It made me wonder "who am I, really?" I have wondered if anyone really knows me. My wife probably comes the closest to knowing me. I like to be friendly, but keep my distance. At least, that is how I perceive myself.

I'll try not to write this blog as though I'm talking to any one particular person. But I don't think I'll be able to write it as "me" though. I will surely be aware of a potential audience or readership. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, and beware. I wouldn't trust me if I met myself. I don't know what I will write about on this blog. It may be all about running. I'm sure it will be self-centered.

So far in 2011 I've run some races.
These ones:

January 1 - Charlotte Running Club New Years 5K
This was a good chance to see a lot of friends from the club. The club has been really good for the Charlotte running community. I'm glad they let me be a part of it. On this day I ran 19:20. I guess it was an alright time, but I wasn't really happy. I wanted to go faster.

January 15 - Charleston Marathon
My wife and I got a sweet offer to go down and help pace the inaugural Charleston Marathon. Actually, I paced the marathon and Jinnie competed and ran a great half marathon. We got two free nights in a pretty nice hotel, courtesy of TrySports. I love TrySports. Everyone should shop there. My friend Brian didn't get a hotel. I think he slept in someone's basement or something. I kind of felt bad for him, but he seemed to have a good weekend anyway. As for the race, my task was to pace the 3:30 group. It was pretty cool. I kept the correct pace. Nobody ran with me. Maybe I wasn't a good leader, I'm not sure.

February 5 - Alyce Guettler Hunger Run 5K
This race was in Rock Hill. I decided to run it late in the week. I saw that my friend Bobby was going to be there. We usually run similar times for a 5K, and I thought one of us might win this smaller race. So I signed up. It was really cheap. I think I got in for 10 dollars, minus a t-shirt. At the race, a group of 4 or 5 went out ahead. But I ran a steady race and got the lead prior to the 2 mile mark. I was fortunate to get a rare win. For my effort, I got a small winner's trophy and a mug. Also I snagged a t-shirt. It always feels good to win. I'm very selfish.

February 26 - Mount Mitchell Challenge 40 Miler
This was my longest run ever. It's awesome, you might want to try it sometime. Jinnie didn't travel to this race with me, so I stayed in the cheap Super 8 motel in Black Mountain. I got a pretty good deal, but not as good as the time I got a 20 dollar deal on Priceline at Myrtle Beach. That place was a dump though. And before I was married. The weather for Mount Mitchell was incredible. The heavy snows of a few weeks prior were gone, for the most part. Only a little snow and ice near the tip-top of Mount Mitchell. I didn't carry along my traction devices for the race, and luckily it paid off. Normal shoes served me well, as I was able to carefully dodge the ice rink near the summit. The race took me 7 hours and 40 minutes. Next year I hope to improve. I could have cut a lot of time at the aid stations. Learning.

March 12 - Crowders Mountain 50K
Did I mention that I'm running a marathon or ultra-marathon every month in 2011? (hopefully) This was my March run. A loosely organized group of fewer than 15 folks showed up to do an out-and-back from the Linwood parking area down to the Kings Mountain Parks in South Carolina. I didn't run as fast as last year at Crowders. It was a lot of fun. I was especially proud of Jinnie running a super strong 20 miles with me. Then she waited for me at the finish. I thought about cutting the run short. The steps up to the top of Crowders were awful. But I'm glad I finished what I started.

March 19 - Shamrock 4 Miler
This is the first race of the Run For Your Life Grand Prix. I felt worn out all week after Crowders. My goal was to run respectably at Shamrock only 7 days later. I think I accomplished that. Some may disagree. Definitely, I could train harder. But I'm comfortable with my running routine. Maybe someday I will go "all in". Maybe I'm scared to do that. Anyway, I would have loved to run 6:00 pace. But I missed it, and finished the 4 Miler in 24:17. At least it was faster than last year's Shamrock race.

March 26 - Charlotte Running Club World Record 100 x 5K
This was our effort to set the world record for 100 people running consecutive 5K's, on a track. It was a relay race. We smashed the record. My stated goal was to run 18:40. But I gutted out 18:39.1. I could go on and on and on about what a great experience this was. We ran in the rain. We ran in cold. We ran at night. We ran and ran and ran. I'm glad that Ben convinced me to participate. Kudos to all in the Charlotte Running Club.

April 1 - April Fools Day 5K
This is an annual crazy race in Albemarle. Peter at Vac & Dash is a great dude. I like to run in his races when I can. If you can't shop at TrySports, shop at Vac & Dash. I do both. I hoped that I might win. When I didn't see Bill, I thought I might have a shot. But alas, 'twas not to be. Second place, but I got a huge bowling trophy. And I went through a bouncy obstacle course at the finish. And no Stans were harmed by water balloon throwing Stanly County kids during the completion of this race. Kids in Stanly County just can't thrown straight. For the second year in a row, they all missed me. I must be fast.

I don't want to go back and edit much of what I write here, so don't expect anything impressive.