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US Mountain Champs & Chilling With the Front of The Pack

Three weeks ago I ran in the USATF Club Track Champs steeplechase at UPenn. Despite coming down with a cold and running much slower than desired, it was a great experience running on that legendary track at Franklin Field. The day was filled with amazing performances by amateur runners competing purely for the love of their event and to see what they could achieve by giving it their all. But with the poor result I was able to achieve, I had a big hole left in my satisfaction and goals for this season and after some of the best training I’ve ever put in this past spring, too. Isn’t that just one of the best and worst things about running, though? You are rarely satisfied with the result of your efforts, but you almost always have a chance for personal redemption just around the corner (barring nasty, evil, mean-spirited injuries) Such was the case here, in the form of one of those metaphorical mountains to climb on the path to success. Only in this story, that mountain is no metaphor and that success has different definitions depending on where you are on that path…

Last weekend just so happened to be that instant chance at redemption for me in the form of the Loon Mountain Race also serving as the US Mountain Running Champs this year. My only goal was to make it hurt from gun to finish line and as I quickly learned, in mountain running, that’s a remarkably easy task! I might have finished way back in 46th place at the end of the 6.5 mile course up and around Loon Mountain, but I had smile across that finish line for sure. Before I go on yammering about my race though, let me take a minute to talk about how the weekend kicked off. Like most experiences in running, this one involves making some new friends and having a great time making memories, as my Gram would say.

What started with a quick message on Facebook offering a ride up from Boston area if needed, led to me spending the weekend with a crew in town from Colorado and Utah and all gunning for top spots in the race and births on the US Mountain Running Team headed to Bulgaria in September. I had seen that Addie Bracy, who trains with my coach Kara Lubieniecki under Brad Hudson’s tutelage out in Boulder, was coming in to try and was able to provide some small assistance in giving her a lift north. In turn she graciously offered me a place to crash at the condo they had rented. After the standard holiday weekend traffic on the road to NH we arrived in Lincoln,, NH and headed over to the Loon Mountain course to get in a nice course preview. Spirits were high despite our relative lack of experience in mountain races, all around. So high that Matt Daniels convinced his friend and fellow Adams State alum Naseem Haje to register for the race, after initially not even planning on running the course preview/shakeout run with us! After hitching a ride back down on the gondola we headed over to packet pickup and caught Alyson Felix crushing the 400 on the TV before leaving the brewery. With mountain and trail races, brew-pub packet pickups are apparently the norm; no one complains. The course preview had worked up a serious hunger so we quickly set upon a pre-race dinner with a visit to The Common Man. Back at the condo afterwards it was fun to hear discussions on race strategy and guesses and predictions on the top finishers and World Team spots. More than a few times did the discussion come back to wondering what that Upper Walking Boss section would feel like, too. Runners at every level are humble and genuine it seems, and my own race plan and personal bests were even asked about. And many thanks to Naseem, who was returning from injury, who determined that we might be seeing some of each other on the course. A humbling thought considering the divide between our best times in most distances… but such is the pride in distance runners, rarely seen until the race starts. I was happy to not be the only one in the condo who wasn’t gunning for a spot on a world team, though I’d hazard a guess that we all went to sleep dreaming about it, just the same.

On race day it was all business, but in a relaxed sort of way, it was trail race after all. A few warmup miles and dropping off of bags in the ski lodge and we were all lining up at the base of the big hill, well the guys anyway (separate men’s and women’s races, but over the same course) It took all of 200 meters for me to lose the leaders from view as the trail seemed much steeper than the day before and I was quickly experiencing a jolt to my confidence. After the first climb my heart settled down and I began to feel good, and honestly, I began to smile (between guffaws and pants of course) The mountain runners, the race and the mountains themselves simply exude joy and fun. It was the most painful race I’ve ever run, but when I crossed that finish line I felt all of the euphoria and joy and I had missed in my unsatisfactory track races this season. I managed fairly even splits when looking at Strava’s GAP time, too. And though I couldn’t relate in my race time, in this feeling of satisfaction upon charging up a mountain vs grinding out on the track and roads, I could indeed relate to that elite company I had adopted for the weekend. Matt Daniels and Hayden Hawke and Naseem are all recent converts to the trails and Addie Bracy was making her trail/mountain debut and all of them had reasons to seek the trails over the track or roads. At the top I was thrilled to discover that Matt had finished 3rd and Hayden 4th and Andy Wacker, whom I also had the fun of meeting and hanging out with, had grabbed the final team spot in 6th, despite suffering from some nasty sickness in the weeks leading up to the race. A short while later, I was even more excited to see Addie leading the women’s race by a healthy margin, one she would retain, to take her first national title! Addie’s performance was even more stunning, given she had almost left the sport a few weeks before the race, which you can read about here. Post race it was all smiles at the awards, with the New England crowd cheering for the west coast and mountain time runners taking most of the top honors. I elected to stick around another night in Lincoln before meeting up with family for the 4th of July and again had a blast with the now newly minted US team members. It seems in post race celebration, we also enjoy the same things, from the middle to the front of the pack. And what other sport can genuinely claim to be a single unified pack, from first place to last? Making new friends and celebrating with those who celebrate was just the welcome reprieve I didn’t know I needed. I can’t wait to have some additional direction in finding the best places to run when I visit Boulder later this year, as well as getting in some runs with Naseem, who lives in NH currently.

Thanks for reading!
~Dan

Photos of Loon Mountain Race from the incomparable Scott Mason, here.
Full results from the wonderful race hosts, Acidotic Racing can be found here.

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Racing Everything, Everywhere.

At the beginning of the year when I normally sit down and plan my goals, I was still recovering from an injury sustained the day before I planned on running XC Club Nats in San Fran last December. So, rather than put together a list of goal races and some form of schedule, I was forced to learn the art of letting go and taking it easy. My coach’s recovery/training plan for me went perfectly and by the end of January I was back to running 7 days a week, feeling a little slow, but very healthy. With nothing to lose and lots of fitness to gain I decided to run a few indoor races for the first time and by mid March found a new 5000 and 3000 PR to give me some confidence going into the New Bedford Half Marathon (one of those peak races I would normally be anxiously prepping for) Despite only a couple of longer workouts, I nearly got a new best half time and beat last years time on the course by 30 seconds. Less stress + more fun = personal bests! To follow that theme I also decided that with a 3k indoor time to my name, I might as well run the rest of the races in the USATF-NE All Terrain Series, fun is found in trying new things! The next race up in the series was the Merrimack ‘Rivah’ Trail race, a fun, technical 10-mile out and back. Though I haven’t raced on the trails often, my NH hiking roots give me plenty of confidence when giving it the beans cruising through the roots, rocks and trees. After a relatively comfortable effort got me 16th at The Rivah I knew this should happen a lot more often! Luckily the next race in the ATR series is the Loon Mountain Race, a 10k up a ski resort, plenty of trail to attack there. Back to the race everything theme though, before I arrive at the base lodge of Loon in July, the focus has been on steeplechase; which I daresay has replaced the marathon as my favorite event. Early season struggles to find races left me with only a few opportunities to steeple this season, so I found myself opting to run a steeple/10k double on the track a few weeks ago. Naturally the ATR Series includes a 10000 for the outdoor track portion, and wanting to make sure I had a time to submit, the double happened. Turns out, if you’re post collegiate the two hardest races to enter/find are 10000s and steeples. However, after running my second fastest steeple I somehow managed to run my second fastest 10k on the track too. Any lingering doubts about current fitness, gone.

That brings us up to last weekend, the Pineland Trail Festival 25k. Pineland is so fun that I had to write about it; the reason for my first blog post in… well, ages. I toed the line at Pineland with an attitude that has been growing all year in my racing, confident and carefree. I consulted some previous year runners and all-around trail running aficionados (hat tip: Kyle and Maartje) and knew that the course was constantly rolling, but non-technical and had no significant climbs. With that in mind I looked up the course record and decided to try and run it at around marathon effort and see how close I could get. Found the lead early, with a couple common faces from the New England running scene. It quickly turned into a three-man race, with two of us taking turns up front and the multiple time winner cruising behind, waiting to attack. Had I known that defending-champ detail during the race, I probably would have left off the gas a bit and followed his approach, but I went for it and didn’t surrender the lead until 6 miles to go. I was quickly gaped, but closed hard and managed to stop the bleeding, eventually finishing only 53 seconds back. The hot early pace might have cost me some time, but I was pumped with 2nd place and just 12 seconds shy of my goal of hitting the old course record. Kudos to Ryan Kelly on the win and new CR, taking down a record last set in 2007!

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Next up for me is another shot at running the steeple Sat, June 4th. (UPDATE: 10 sec PR!) Than it’s onto Club Track Nationals at UPenn on June 25th, where I’ll hopefully be geared up for my best steeple yet. The following week it’s back up to NH for that Loon Mountain  Race which serves as the National Mountain Running Champs this year too. Nothing like back-to-back weekends running National Championships in entirely different events! BTW, if you’re wondering what kind of coach can train you to run PRs in every distance and  over every terrain; Hudson Community has you covered! Coach Kara has transformed my training and my appreciation for running over the past year!

Race everything, have fun!

Assorted pictures below of the races mentioned: Special plug to Scott Mason Photos!

 

We Appreciate Your Patience

My desire to renew my blogging efforts with some vim was apparently short-lived and I now have back-to-back posts that have nothing to do with running. I will write up something soon about the amazing west coast trails and mountains that I just had the chance to run though, I promise!

We Appreciate Your Patience
Flying Economy in The 21st Century

As I sit aboard UA Flight 948 in transit from Denver to Seattle I peer awkwardly from my aisle seat over my fellow internees to catch a glimpse of the majestic Grand Tetons. The captain was nice enough to point out the view, though he was less forthcoming in providing parachutes to allow an escape from his sardine can in the sky. The mountains stir up excitement in me and a desire to explore, as they always do, but in almost direct contrast to the feelings those scenic vistas evoke, a sullen contempt still simmers within. I try to mask it as the flight attendant inquires about my interest in purchasing some over-priced snacks, it’s not her fault after all, and at least when she offers the menu you can catch a slight pause between “would you like a snack?” and “for purchase?” I choose to believe that she too thinks it’s bush league that 100 calories of pretzels are now affixed with a price tag after years of being complementary, but it could just be an unfamiliarity with the changing spiel.

We’re all in this together was their message after multiple delays and a broken down plane kept us in Denver much longer than hoped or planned for. Denver International Airport is so tantalizing close to the Front Range, yet so far away, which only adds to the pain. I guess in a way we are all in it together, only I can’t help but think that for all the doldrums of waiting and waiting, at leas the flight crew is being paid for this hassle. Here I sit now, thousands of feet above mountains I long to be running on, spending 11 hours of my weekend in transit for Monday morning work. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it had always been like this, but it hasn’t, in fact it was almost *gasp* fun, once upon a time! The nostalgia filter applied when hearkening back to a pleasant childhood no doubt distorts my memory, but I do remember some details from a transcontinental flight two decades ago. We watched movies and listened to music for free, on free headphones, we ate meals for free, we checked multiple bags for free. Oddly enough the only one of those still free are the headphones. They’re most likely manufactured in some place where the materials and labor are much cheaper to source, I bet. While in the world’s third largest producer and processor of food, we find the cost of cheap snacks continuing to vault at the retail (airplane) level. I’ll leave that riddle for another time, though because I’m sure there are all sorts of labor costs, regulatory expenses and whatever else that play a hand, or so they’ll probably say.

A guilty thought interrupts my internal diatribe just now anyway and brings me back to that childhood trip. I’m ashamedly reminded that my chosen listening from Boston to San Francisco was the debut album from Nickelback. Now, either I’m complicit in the downfall of commercial flying by listening to that cacophony of mediocrity, or those days were so much better that the din of Chad Kroeger’s bellowing did little to affect the pleasant experience that flight impressed upon me. Maybe it’s a bit of both, and we really are all in this together, but to blame ourselves, not commiserate. Our flight is now preparing to make it’s final descent. What an ominous phrase that is, by the way. If nothing else this rant has been cathartic and helped to pass the time. I encourage you also to try writing down your grievances next time you to consider jumping from 20,000 feet to be the superior option and let me know how you make out when “flying the friendly (read: late, over-priced, squished…) skies”

Last Night of The Summer – An Evening With Dawes

“Late night drives and hot french fries and friends around the country from Charlottesville to good old Santa Fe
When I think of you, you still got on that hat that says let’s party, I hope that thing is never thrown away
I hope that life without a chaperon is what you thought it’d be, I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever
I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me, and may all your favorite bands stay together.”

I’m never going to hear this song now without thinking of the positive vibe and emotions being felt as Dawes closed a 2 hour set with it last night. The song has a whole new meaning now after Taylor Goldsmith introduced it by saying it was directed at us and everyone in the audience reciprocated by singing along and pointing back at the band when the “may all your favorite bands stay together” line was sung. Corny as it may read, after the smiling to the point of laughter at the sheer joy brought on by the sounds they were making, all we could do was thank the band for giving us a piece of themselves. I’ve been to many concerts before, some great, some not so great, but I’ve never had that unique happening where you actually feel closer to the band and everyone else in the room through such a positive shared experience. I know this is a blog about running primarily, but I strongly urge you to attend a Dawes show if you possibly can. You don’t have to know a single song to appreciate it, though I doubt you could walk away without humming one or two of them over the next week. You simply need to appreciate the songwriting greats and you’ll fit right in. From Dylan to Browne, to Paul Simon and Nas, the same lyrical quality and emotion put into every song is truly remarkable from these LA rockers.

A happy first official day of fall to everyone! My lunch run was cool, dry and enjoyable and it feels like the time to enjoy some Pumpkin Spice everything has arrived. Summer was a joy, but my favorite season of all has arrived now.

When a Slow Time is Still a Good Race – Lone Gull 2015

Maybe I’m just trying to justify in my head the time from today and how far from my expectations it was, or maybe I’ve finally learned to be a little bit content with each race for what it was, apart from my time goals; either way, I did genuinely have fun. Lone Gull 10k last year was one of those rare races where I actually ran my goal time, but my placement was nowhere near remarkable, 60th overall. Running it for the second time today I finished in 36th against the same Gran Prix crowd and stunningly ran 9 seconds slower! One of my big goals this year was to finally get to the 32’s for 10k and to that end I’ve failed miserably, but in terms of racing and being competitive I feel I’ve grown immeasurably. With that being said, I really feel like I can genuinely say that it was a good time today despite being much slower than desired. Let’s also be honest here, how many times has any runner felt completely satisfied with the their time in a race? The day I am 100% content is the day I stop really competing I think. I am trying to learn to appreciate the experiences no matter how they go, but total satisfaction feels like a lack of hunger and that’s something I’ve never been accused of! (Literally and metaphorically) My goal was to use the spring and summer training to get faster and become more competitive; while faster never seems fast enough, I have just accomplished my two highest finishes in NEGP races yet to cap off the road series. New England probably has the deepest base of competitive runners in the country, even if we don’t have the fastest guys at the front necessarily, so to start moving up in the ranks a little in placement has me feeling confident about my training.

I’ve been completely lacking in desire to blog about anything since June as the lack of posts indicates, but now that I find myself in the throws of marathon training again, I suddenly feel the need to document the process once more. No better time to start than the present, so here I find myself recapping today’s race and ignoring the last 3 months of training like they never happened. They did actually happen though and they might be the most interesting and wild bit yet of my little running experiment. I could sum them up properly and I might some day, but for now I’ll simply leave you with the cliff notes. Steeplechase. I am an addict for running, jumping, and occasional splashing it turns out. I tried it for the first time in June and knew instantly that I was hooked. From starting out in last and moving up to 4th place in my first race to placing 3rd at Club Nats and going on to win the New England Championship, it just became more and more fun! It was exciting to break 10 min on my 3rd attempt and already have a goal in mind for next season. A season with no spring marathon planned and a strong desire to see just how fast I can get when I put my everything into it.
11415543_871462636277230_5363151331654016850_oBefore I talk about skipping a Spring marathon and just focusing on steeple I should probably talk about the marathon I am training for though. Next time I post I’ll bring the blog up to speed on training for Calforina International Marathon and my goals, dreams and ambitions this time around. As always, many thanks to awesome coaching from Hudson Elite and Kara! And congrats to the boys of Sisu for our 8th place finish in the Gran Prix this year on the back of a strong 7th place showing at the 10k Champs today! Sisu up! 8th place is great, but top 5 will be much sweeter.

Track Races and Watch Tans

Not much can compare to flying along some fun single track on a dry, sunny day, at least not by my estimation. I’ve certainly been enjoying plenty of trail running since the snow melted, but man is it a lot more fun when the weather is +/- one degree of perfect like it’s often been for the past couple weeks! Granted on race day it always seems to crank it up to 11 with humidity and Fahrenheit, but otherwise it’s been ideal. Plenty of runners hate the really hot days, and while I’m not a necessarily a fan of them myself, as long as it’s not humid and I don’t have a race, it’s kind of fun to grit it out and work on those classy runner tan-lines. Anyhow, enough chatting about the weather in New England, it’s about to change again (seriously, a high of 61 and rain is forecast for tomorrow…)

So, onto the running! I left off in my last post having just returned from a fun-filled VT City Marathon weekend and boy oh boy has a lot happened in the two weeks since then. After returning from VT I ran what I thought would be a great 5000, but ended up being a disappointing and slow time. The humidity was in full effect and to top it off I had no one in my heat who was willing or able to push the pace at all. I led from the gun and won the heat, which was one small bonus, but still left me feeling thoroughly ready to put in some more work in training and a desire to forget all about it.

Scott Mason making even me look pro.

Scott Mason makes everything look good, even a crappy race!

Thankfully, the next event in the local series only offered a 3000 or 3k steeple, so I had to either take the weekend off from racing or try something totally new. I went way out of comfort zone and raced the steeple. As is often the case for me, trying something new was just the kick I needed to get me even more psyched about running again and to boost some confidence. I started right at the back of the pack and just pushed hard and consistently worked up my effort and ended up finishing 5th. Unfortunately I didn’t realize until half a lap to go that I was close to getting the club nationals standard and was unable to grab it, closing hard. Still, finishing in 10:16 gave me confidence that I can go a lot faster and was perfect inspiration to try the steeple at least once more this year and go for the <10:10. It also made me realize that I need to buckle down and push harder in the 5k.

Thanks to Tom Derderian for this great shot!

Thanks to Tom Derderian for this great shot!

Well, that was last week in a nutshell. Steeple is my new favorite thing and I would have gone right out and raced it again this week, but it wasn’t offered, so it was back to the 5000. This time I found mostly great weather and some solid people to run with, perfect. Took off in 3-4th for the first few laps and was content to hang on and churn out mostly 78’s with plenty of cheering and splits called out from the SISU family around the track (we also gathered enough people for three co-ed DMR teams, the highlight of the night, for sure) My goal was to break 16, but that was going to be a big ask, I knew, the smart move was running 16:1x pace so I followed the advice of those on the sides and just tried to hang tough. With a few laps to go the lead guy started to slow but the girl in front me also was losing steam and he was losing us. I made the move and got right up on him and then thought about making a move with a couple to go, but he sensed it and sped up. With 200 to go I moved into lane 2 again and tried to pull ahead, but again was matched. With 50 to go I finally got the lead and literally found a whole new speed, hitting close to 30 seconds for the last 200 according to GPS data. Big confidence boost, finally cutting some time off my 5k best, even if 16:15 is nowhere near where my aspirations lie, still felt good exercising some racing tactics. Did get plenty of ribbing about my “sit-and-kick” race after this getting up on the Level the other day, but I’m fine with that! Speaking of kicks… did anyone else jump up from the couch screaming when Ben True out-kicked Nick Willis to be the first American to ever win a Diamond League 5000 yesterday? Maybe I was inspired by that last night, come to think of it. Enough breaking down past races though, time to focus on what’s ahead and chase faster times!

Next up is my second go at the steeple on the 21st, followed by what should be a racing filled July, with some 10k and 5 mile action on tap. Hopefully some good tune-ups for some really fast XC this fall in mid-marathon mode. If I do get the club nats standard in the steeple, I’ll def make the trip down to NYC and have some fun!

As always, thanks for reading along and putting up with my self-aggrandizing race recaps. :p

And last but not least, please go try out some track if you haven’t before! This complete newbie here has had a blast in every race and never once felt like an outsider. Even adult runners can fit in and have fun, so don’t be scared to step up and give it a go! Just ask this lovely team of DMR runners; some with no experience, some with college in the recent or distant rear-view, all with smiles!
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Running Vacations and Weekend Shenanigans

I’ve only been on a few vacations in adulthood that didn’t center around my current pursuits, so I can’t quit understand the thrill found in sitting on a beach for a week. I want to chase my dreams, not chase a tan. I do enjoy relaxing and certainly value having downtime, but I try to get those during my weekly routine, not when I’m visiting a new place. I’m really more of a homebody anyway, so when it comes to vacations, that’s the time to get out and explore! In light of that, this past weekend checked all the boxes for me.

The Vermont City Marathon served as the backdrop of a fun-filled trip to Burlington, but it wasn’t the only highlight. The weekend started early with my second year of attending the 500 For The Fallen relay on Thursday night. The 500 mile relay supports the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation which assists with education costs of military children. With running being a mostly selfish pursuit for me, I really value the times I can actually give to others through running and what better way to do that than by also remembering veterans on Memorial Day weekend?

On Saturday morning the weekend started for real with fellow runners at my house bright and early to pick me up for the carpool to VT. We arrived in Burlington by noon and following a quick stop to pick up bibs, we arrived at UVM where I was planning on getting a track workout in. The prescribed workout was 3 x (5×400 with first 4 of each set at 5k and last rep @ 3k) recoveries were supposed to be 1 min, but I forgot and jogged a full lap after each repeat (1:40) full recovery of 4 min between sets. The weather might have been the nicest I’ve ever done a workout in and UVM’s relatively new facility is quite nice too! I was happily able to hit the pace I wanted throughout and feel like it should be sustainable in the 5k on Sat night (well… maybe)
Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/311782780/embed/65becd6a732f5794854d51531b4db03039335f81

Saturday afternoon we went out touristing in the city. Some other friends were up in VT on vacation so we all met up for lunch, dinner, taking part in street performances and walking around by the lake. The most fun I’ve ever had the night before a “marathon” for sure. We called it a night fairly late for a race night and checked into the hotel around 10. The next morning we filled up on the hotel’s continental breakfast and shuttled ourselves and some others to the race start. VCM does an excellent job with everything and we were able to easily locate our group of friends in the front corral. My buddy Austin and I were both planning on pacing some friends shooting for mid 2:50 times, and were going to try and lead them for at least the first 13. The plan when I signed up was to be pushing up with the front and racing the whole thing, but I’m very happy with the change in plans and I’m certain this will be better in the long term. I had a blast in the 16 miles I did run, laughing and talking the whole way and hamming it up for the cameras. My friend and club-mate Amanda crushed it, finishing as the 5th female overall! Alex and E-J who were also running with us both ran 2:58 or faster and Austin and I got to feel like we actually helped as pacers! After a post marathon team brunch at the Skinny Pancake we went back to the hotel to clean up. Sunday night we sampled some more local cuisine and hung out with other runners before succumbing to fatigue and crashing early.

Monday saw a lazy start to the day and a traffic free cruise back down to Hanover NH to tour some trails around Dartmouth and film some cool scenes running through the woods. Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/311779843/embed/b5d6da6e3555ca54cbee7331151fb914ba5c8a6a
After refueling at the Dirt Cowboy Cafe we made the drive home and happily closed the book on another super fun, amazing running weekend. Also, one last shout out to Burlington for awesome restaurants and coffee shops, I think I sampled 4 coffee shops and drank more than I care to admit. haha Now it’s time to plan out the details on some summer mountain running trips and a full running vacation in CA this December.

Thanks for reading!
-DJ

Running? Oh yeah, I Am Still Doing That…

Well, it’s about time I posted an update, with Boston 4 weeks in the rear-view. It’s been a bit up and down since the marathon, as it often is, but more on the downward trend than up, unfortunately. I’m still running, but mileage has definitely taken a hit, partly planned, mostly from nagging pains and tweaks.

So, after Boston I took 4 days of complete rest then started building back up. Just easy pace stuff, letting my body set the distance and pace. The week after Boston I ran 50 something miles and felt pretty rusty for most of it. Before I go on, I should mention how I felt about Boston mentally, I suppose. The weather was the major theme and in a bad way. As with most people, my pace too was affected by cruel headwinds which intensified when running over the Newton hills. I can’t blame the wind completely for missing my goal time by almost 7 minutes though, running 2:36:54. I think a few factors played their part, one being an overestimation of my fitness going in, and two being a lack of proper planning in my pace over the beginning and finally the cold and rain along with the wind. I couldn’t find anyone to run with when I really could have used them too, but that was due to moving up in placement significantly from last year, one of the positives. I was also happy that I was able to keep grinding along even though I didn’t sustain the pace I wanted. And like they say, a personal best is a personal best at the end of the day.

With that brief recap given, I’ll gat back to the post Boston training and recovery efforts. Over the two weeks following Bostons rest week I increased mileage back to the low 60s and started working some fartleks back in. I’ve been struggling with some intense tightness in my right hamstring and the ever-present plantar in my left foot, though it has improved greatly! This has hampered the comeback enough that I’ve decided to drop out of VT City Marathon this weekend as a precaution against further injury. On Saturday I did get the chance to carefully run my first track 10k, certainly the highlight of May so far! I was still too tight to fully go through warmups, yet brazenly chose to push hard anyway and came away with my second fastest 10k yet, 34:14. I can officially say that I’m addicted to track now too! I’ve spoken with my awesome coach and she’s adjusted my training to work on speed as I focus on some more track over the next month. The plan all along has been to work on getting much faster over the summer before switching back to marathon training in early fall to prep for CIM in December. With skipping VCM I’ll now be able to get back to speed that much quicker. In fact, if you’re in Burlington this weekend and also not running the marathon, please join me for a track workout Saturday! Plan is for 3 x (5×400, first 4 @ 5k, last rep @ 3k pace) Should be a real butt-kicker; assuming the ART and graston work I got today accelerates the healing enough in my leg that I’m ready to attack it all out again.

That’s where I’m at! Apologies to regular readers on the long delay, post marathon blues… kills motivation every time. Thanks for reading!

No One Wants to Watch a Sit And Kick Race (Okay… I don’t anyway)

Dear athletes, coaches and meet organizers,

Please encourage racing from the gun. Our sport has few enough fans as it is and these snooze-fest races are definitely not helping. I understand that championship races are going to be more tactical, but since when does that mean downright jogging at every meet? The Diamond League distance races have almost exclusively become fast final lap affairs, as have most of the early season US events…  events used mostly to get standards out of the way; explain slow times as a benefit to me there? I seriously think we need some more Prefontaine characters around, as cliche as that may sound, we need some brave souls to start making it hard and honest from the get-go.

Ask even the most devout NBA fan what a regular season game is like, and they will tell you (if they’re honest) that you only need to see the last 2 minutes. In major track meets, we only need to tune in for the last minute these days. What a joke, to have anything in common with the mockery of sport that is the current NBA, but even they turn it up in the finals! See Spurs-Clippers 100-73 -Game 3 2015… so intense! Instead of getting more exciting in the big races with track, it’s even less exciting though. Just refer back to the Diamond League; here are some examples:
Emma Coburn winning a race where two of the best Ethiopians didn’t even bother to chase her down until it was too late. I don’t care if they did thought she was a pacer, shame on them for not sticking with the fast pace if that was so.
Impressive long final kick from Mo here, but c’mon dude, we know you have speed. Running “pedestrian” for a mile and a half first does nothing to help the sport, except maybe in England where Mo winning is all they want.
This is just a typical DL event, so pathetic. Bunch of guys who can run much faster, just waiting around in a 5000.
And of course, the final straw in my case against this stupidity. Today’s weakest and most pathetic final mile in the Penn Relays 4xMile.
And just to prove the big races do the same thing; here is a prime example of a championship race, where everyone… Yep! You guessed it, they expect a sit and kick, yawn of a race where Mo Farah can put down a 52 second final lap to win it.

Now I’m not trying to say, Ches, Mo, or anything other athletes are to blame in particular for this kind of racing. On the contrary, those guys know they can close hard, so why not start easy and out-kick to win, winning is the goal after all. I do blame the other guys for not making it honest though, if they went hard from the gun more often it would create a ton more drama and excitement for the entire race. These pro runners need to simply start exercising more courage and less “supreme tactical planning.” This isn’t a game of chess, it’s a freaking foot race, the first one across the line wins, who cares if he can run the fastest 400 after running hard for nearly 3 miles or what have you. No one wants to watch that, it doesn’t engage the average person. It’s like watching a bunch of old folks going for a Sunday drive in the first 199 laps of a 200 lap stock car race (granted I think all 200 are boring, no matter the speed) As for college races, all it takes is for the coach to tell his/her athletes to go hard more often, rather then playing to the boring, fast kick mentality. Meet organizers should encourage fast paces too, with incentives and bonuses for good times. And try it without the use of pacers, or pacers for only the first 1/4 of the race at most.

Anyhow, those are just some thoughts I have and they also happen to be pure facts. Please comment with your thoughts, if you agree or disagree, or totally hate me now.

Sincerely,
An annoyed and bored fan, who would gladly take it out hard in every major race if I could.

PS: After catching some flack from some milers, and distance guys about the difficulty in closing super hard and matching other competitors surges, I will clarify something. I do recognize that the sit-and-kick race is potentially even harder than running hard from the gun, and I understand that it might even be more fun to watch for the dedicated track fan. But my gripe is mostly fixed on my own perceptions and those of a general public who can pretty easily pick up that guys are not racing at their hardest until the very end and that they might also find this a cheap and boring tactic to watch.

Part 2: Boston 2015 Recap – The Party is Over and I’m Sad and Lonely

I’m not really that lonely, but I am pretty sad. There’s always a bit of post-marathon blues when you run, but after the hype and excitement of this race, the entire Boston area goes into a blue state of funk after. At least it feels that way to us. For as long and as cold as this winter was, I almost want it back, just so I can be training for Boston again. But, what’s done is done, the race is indeed over and it’s time to recover, rebound and get ready for the next battle. I feel a lot of emotions, I suppose referencing them in the title gives that away though, but beyond the sadness there are a few other thoughts that have prevailed in the past 24 hours. In no particular order, here they are:
1. I’m not going to race Boston again next year, or for awhile after that most likely. I’m not sick of it and I’m not mad about anything, but I do have a few reasons for this. I want to truly race Boston and I’ve not successfully mastered the course or marathons in general (I doubt any ever fully does) so I won’t return just yet.
2. I’d like to cut a lot more time off my marathon best and I am absolutely convinced that I can. I feel like I trained very well for this one and then still managed to race stupid in a couple of ways. I didn’t fully plan out my pacing and was still kind of making it up as I went. (another reason to race other courses when chasing times, you just can’t run consistent splits here) I also skipped taking in any fuel besides a little Gatorade until after the halfway point. Why didn’t I fuel earlier? I don’t know, ask the me who isn’t running a marathon and I can give you no answer. I did eat two gels, one at halfway and one at 16 and Gatorade at every mile or every other mile until the finish from 15 miles on or so. As I said, I felt the wind and it scared me into going slower from the start, which was probably for the best, but I was mentally unprepared for any pace besides my goal overall pace.
3. To PR on any day does hold some satisfaction, as does not fading and dying completely. On none of my 5k splits did I average slower than 6 minute miles and therefore accomplished a goal I set as a lifetime objective when I ran my first marathon, to one day run at sub 6 pace. I am ticked that I held 5:47 pace for much of the race before letting the hills and wind get to me mentally when I just started grinding on from mile 16. I cringe and want to yell in frustration when I look at my splits and it appears that I completely slowed down when I hit the Newton hills, because I wanted to believe that my training would have prevented me doing that. But I’m also taking heart in the fact that it wasn’t a mental lack of composure that caused it, I was just well and truly losing energy from fighting with the weather and whatever else.
4. It’s only been 3.5 years since my first marathon and I’ve cut off 54 minutes from that first 3:31. I would be more than satisfied with my current PR even one year ago, but right now it seems thoroughly slow and unsatisfactory and I’m happy that it feels that way. You can call me selfish or arrogant or anything else, but I don’t believe that’s true. I honestly believe that I can run much faster and I’m going to keep racing marathons until I no longer find them fun, which leads me to thought number five.
5. As negative as the above thoughts may sound, I really did enjoy the entire experience. Boston Marathon weekend is one of the most exciting and fun times of the year around here and this year was even more fun for me than last. Though my bank account may be unhappy with Tracksmith, I am feeling quite comfy! I’ve allowed myself to binge on foods that I wasn’t eating much of in training over the past day, which also holds some passing pleasure. I really did have a lot of fun in the race, even when I was grinding away in the final miles of the race and knew that I was far from reaching my goal time. At 24.something I thought “Why are you doing this?” And the answer immediately popped into my head “Because you’re having fun, more fun than anyone should have in this much pain!” I smiled at the thought and then noticed the clock at 25 miles, it read 2:30 something, I had officially missed my goal, with 1.2 miles to go still. I somehow finished the last 1.2 in only 7 minutes or so, even though it didn’t feel like my legs were responding when I told them to pick up the pace
6. I hate making or using any excuses, but I cannot ignore or downplay how difficult it was for me to run into the constant headwind and occasional large gusts and passing hard showers. I’m not sure how much ‘time was added on’ due to the weather, but I’m willing to bet that had I not been working so hard to come even close to goal pace in the first 16, I would have better dealt with the terrain in the end.
7. I really miss the grind of running higher mileage and big workouts and having to plan my days around it already. My taper was a little more aggressive than planned with the plantar issues and I have only had one day off post marathon so far, but I’m really itching to get back in the saddle already. I love training as much as I love racing and after this winter I really want just once this year, just one stinking time, to run a long workout that I can actually hit the paces I’m targeting without having AWFUL weather screw it up. So far, no such occurrence has presented itself, but it feels like spring might actually stick this time, so here’s to warm evening track workouts and early morning weekend long runs! I am ready to build off this marathon to keep chasing my dreams.

I usually try to do some kind of write up on each marathon so I can refer back to it for future training, but I think this will do for Boston 2015. I have no desire right now to go over the race mile by mile, since I stopped looking at splits and just ran by all-out-whatever-I-could-push-and-still-hope-to-finish-effort by about half way through. One last word though, my pre-race half written post, Twas the Night Before the Party turned out to be completely true and I’m quite happy with that. I truly did give it my all. I saw stars a few times on the final run down Boylston Street and was totally exhausted and spent at the finish line.

I’m still pretty amped up at 2AM the second night after the race and the words I posted on Facebook when I got home last night are still ringing around in my head and fist pumping the crowd in there…
If you’re dreams aren’t so big they scare you, yet keep you up with the excitement of chasing them and not the fear of reaching them, it’s time to reevaluate. The ‪#‎sisuUP‬ spirit was felt today and now it’s time to go full Viking warrior mode and start seeking new lands and chasing better plunder!