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

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!

Part 1: Twas the Night Before the Party

I’m almost jittery I’m so excited for tomorrow. No matter what happens with my race, I’m just happy to be part of the race. It’s been a year of mostly consistent building with only minor setbacks, so I am feeling pretty good about reaching my goals. However, without giving up the drive to reach them or slacking in the race, I am still trying to focus on the joy of just being out there. Last year I ran pretty hard, but was still able to really rejoice and party along with Boston and the crowds the entire way. This year I do want to have a smile the whole way, but I want that smile to come through the focused and controlled face of giving it my all. I’ll be totally fine if I fall over and drop after the finish. In the ideals of Meb, I want to run to win tomorrow, that doesn’t mean winning the race, but it means running with my all and giving my best!

Discomfort and Pain, Friend and Foe

Any good distance runner can probably tell you a great deal about what discomfort feels like, along with constant hunger, fatigue and thirst. Pain however, pain is something we learn to compartmentalize or remove from our lexicon entirely. I can’t think of the last time when I wasn’t in at least mild discomfort and I’m actually quite okay with that, even proud. I can distinctly remember the last time I was in pain though (when I slammed my knee last May) You see, training for marathons is simply one long grind of discomfort, often extreme discomfort, with even more discomfort as the reward in the races themselves. Discomfort becomes then, a valuable training guide and a close friend and ally, it’s often the only one out there with us on those bitter winter runs. It’s often the only one sweating it out on the muggy summer runs too, only really leaving us alone on the easy paced runs in comfortable weather, or for those few moments of running euphoria when we’re coasting through the trees or gliding like a goat down a mountain. It always show up when we ask it to though, just as surely as the need to nap and extreme hunger are present after a hard 2 hour run or a set of 20 x 400 meter intervals. It’s not only there as a silent companion, but as a great source of feedback too. When we have to run faster and push harder just to be together again, discomfort tells us that we are now faster and stronger runners. When we are trying to run based on effort level, our discomfort tells how long we can sustain that effort on that day. In the end, discomfort is really a solid protagonist in the distance runner’s story, a bit grumpy and rough around the edges sure, but with a good heart. Pain is a sworn enemy however, it never comes along side to guide us to the right pace in a workout, it never tells us that foam rolling and massage our actually helping through the hurt. It never does anything positive, it just intrudes and barks unwanted orders to the components in our bodies that propel us forward, based on it’s own silly bias and ideas. Pain is a jerk and a dream crusher. Obviously it is still in my lexicon, though rarely used or admitted to. I’m not socializing with it right now, but I have been in that middle ground where localized discomfort hangs around long enough to create doubts about the reality of actual pain. This time my nearly p-word foe has materialized in the form of a very common running antagonist, plantar fasciitis. I would call it an injury, but that word is even more seldom used then pain, and certainly never applies to things that you can sort of run through! Real injuries have to involve broken bones and large ligament tears, right? Plantar is just an annoying pest that makes you feel like an arthritic octogenarian. After going through bouts of it for about two weeks, I’ve arrived at the taper portion of my marathon training with more discomfort then I’d like to admit to. Normally a few days of easy running, massage and stretching can clear any lasting plantar, but after two “easy” days last week (32 miles between the two) I decided that action needed to be taken since my foot was already in some righteous discomfort before the start of my scheduled 20 miler. So I did something that causes me real, genuine, honest-to-goodness pain, I skipped my workout and took the day off from running. As I mentioned in my last post, the reality of this being the right decision has no bearing at all on the morose and sullen lethargy that a runner feels when forced to skip his running. I moped around all day trying to focus on the positives in my life on the day before Easter Sunday, but hardly moved from the chair or bed. I managed to put on a happy face and go out to a friends house for a get-together Saturday night and did enjoy myself by employing the tactics of forced forgetfulness and ignorance, something I normally reserve for the first few miles of a run, when I’m not ready to hang out with discomfort yet. Yesterday I used similar methods and genuinely enjoyed time spent at Easter service and with friends who are more like family for the remainder of the day. Today I’m not sure how I’ll manage, but between work, strength training and enough core work to make myself cry, I think I might survive my third day of no running. Tomorrow I run, because to think that I won’t is just too scary an idea to fully accept. After all, I have felt slightly better each of the past two days, I’m not even limping in the morning!

Training Through Discomfort

On Tuesday I was going strong on one full night of sleep out of the last six and was suffering from day two of a head cold. God delivered up a nice dose of humidity to really challenge my motivation, too. All day at work I was just thinking about how excited I was to go try a new workout and then trying to convince myself that I really was. I ended up leaving work with every intent to workout still in place and arrived at the park down the street from house with my ambition still intact. I set a wider goal pace range in my head to account for sickness and humidity and tried to be okay with the probability of running a slower workout than last week. I often try to mentally trick myself when I’m not feeling 100% by coming up with acceptable margins of error on my paces. I realign the goals for the workout, the trick is, I still fully intend to run the original pace. It doesn’t always work, but I can often start repeats easier when I’m telling myself that it’s okay to be slower and then charge to the finish to hit the desired pace. 

The selected workout is recommended by one of my favorite coaches, Brad Hudson, as a good 10k sharpening workout, best run at goal race pace 3-4 weeks out from a peak race. As I am preparing to race Lone Gull 10k in a few weeks and then some XC 10k’s after that, it seemed like the perfect time to do it. I elected to run on the rolling grass fields of Flerra Meadows in Boxborough, I wanted to get some more experience running hard on the grass in spikes. The target pace was 5:29/mile or in this case, 3:24/k, the workout is 4x2k @ race pace + 1k @ max effort, with only 1 min active recovery.
Repeats went as follows:
1- 3:15-3:17 (too fast!)
2- 3:19-3:22 (okay, now hold it here!)
3- 3:24-3:23 (good, good)
4- 3:26-3:22 (eh, close enough)
5- 3:12 (close to puking on mucus build up, pleasant, I know)

My total pace including the 1 min. recoveries ended up being right at 5:38/mile average for 6.1 miles. My current PR in the 10k is at a 5:34 pace so I was very pleased to hit my goal pace or just under on the grass, with some hills no less. It was a great confidence builder to go into a workout with multiple things not being optimal and still hit the pace I wanted. It seems like I’m getting in shape to possibly break 34 minutes after all! Still felt a bit stiff on tonight’s 6×800 track workout, but ran under goal pace anyway to get some speed in, averaged right around 2:38 per, with 400 recoveries and 1 mile at goal 15k pace at the end (5:38) Because, yes, all of this speed will not be put to the test for another week, this weekend I’ll be racing a 15k and I need to remember the right pace so I don’t go out crazy hard and fall apart! Next weekend is the first NE Gran Prix XC race and it will be a step down for me to 5k. My hope will just be that I can hold my 10k goal pace over the 5k XC course and use it as a starting point for XC racing. Tune in next time to read about some other new and exciting running happenings in my life and hopefully a positive race report from the GMAA 15k in Burlington, VT this weekend. Go Angry Chickens! (Greater Lowell Road Runners)

“The Slowest Generation”

My reply to the author of this story, The Slowest Generation is posted below.

Kevin,

Just read your article; while I appreciate the acknowledgement by contributors that the competitiveness of American youth has largely gone out the window, I feel that the article left us wanting in the realm of solutions. By simply criticizing, you will only make them more complacent.  Some of the data is also skewed, when displayed in this manner. For instance, the median finishing time of marathoners has decreased over the past decade, while the number of finishers has jumped upwards. Those two often go hand-in-hand the same with almost every distance of road race. Not to mention, the US Track and Field’s showing in the last few Olympics and world champs has been full of young studs. They might not be winning yet, but they are making finals and top fives in events we haven’t been competitive in over the last 40 years, in some cases. 

Suffice to say, this same article could have been written with a very positive spin, on just how active the nation could become with the right emphasis on these issues. It’s okay to not be competitive and just want to have fun in one of the “fitness party” type of races, but just because legions of fans now exist for them, does not mean that the US is losing it competitive edge among younger folks. 

 
Signed,
 
A Very Active, Very Competitive 27 y.o. Marathoner. 
Dan Button