Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meet Max


Before the Thunder Road Marathon, Chad promised me a puppy if I broke 3 hours.  Judging by the difficulty of the course and my DNF in Chicago, he probably thought it was a safe bet and he would not be getting me a puppy.  His logic was pretty good.  I had some great training runs and the weather was supposed to be cold and perfect, but I had been saying for nearly 2 months that my goal was just to run hard and finish to get myself and my mind on track for Boston, where I would be in great shape and bust out the coveted sub 3.  Naturally, once a willing accomplice, Kevin Ballentine, perfect weather, and a puppy were thrown into the mix, I decided to take a shot at sub 3. 

Zipping across the finish line in 2:59:43, Chad was stuck shaking his head at his misfortune.  It turns out I was right to go for it despite the course, as I ended up sidelined with an injury for most of my Boston training.  I kindly waited until after Boston to request my puppy and then requested I did with the perfect puppy already picked out.  Poor Chad didn't know what hit him!  On Monday we were running the Boston Marathon on Wednesday we arrived back in Charlotte.  On Saturday we were the proud onwers of a barely 8 week old Boston Terrier.  He is already the best.

Maxwell Karl Crockford
Already Athleticoring?  Or perhaps reading the CRC Weekly Runner?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chad's Boston Recap

Goals:  Don’t get hurt, finish, break three hours, PR (2:53:38), sub 2:50, sub 2:45.  The marathon is such a grueling distance that I am a firm believer in many goals including a reach goal which for me was 2:45.  I thought I had the fitness, but I was concerned by my lack of running volume.  For most of the training cycle I was running about every other day, my long runs were pretty good but I was only able to run about 60% of my already relatively low goal mileage.  

My weekly mileage in preparation for the marathon, which was completely disrupted by multiple injuries: 41, 47, 58, 58, 70, 73, 74, 30, 40, 36, 62, 32, 33, 50, 18.  

With that low and sporadic mileage I knew I could be in the danger zone in the second half of the marathon despite my 1:17:15 half 5 weeks prior to the marathon.  

Plan:  I decided that I would roll the dice and go out at about 2:45 pace (~6:17) and at least give myself a chance.  Who knows if or when I would come back to Boston; I did not want to be conservative.  On the flip side I though that 6:17 was manageable and not too fast.  I wouldn’t sweat it if i started a little slower and slowly progressed the pace like it did a Cherry Blossom a year before.  

Execution:  I wish I could be more romantic about the Boston Marathon, but I really looked at it as a mission and went into it more cold and tactical.  The bus ride to Hopkinton was uneventful, we were happy to have splurged on the special buses and not be on school buses.  The bus was our base for getting ready and before we knew it Danielle and I were jogging to the start corrals.  I was in #2 and she was in #3 so after a short warm up we said goodbye.  That was tough just because I had never ran a marathon on my own and I also wanted to be there for her and share the experience with her.  I gave her a hug and kiss and we went to our respective corrals.  

The elites came out (Go Joanie!), the national anthem was sung, and we were off.  I must say I was amazed just how crowded that first mile was.  Usually it doesn’t take long for even a crowded marathon to open up, but I was farther back than I think I realized, near the back of the second corral. That  put probably 1700 people in front of me, and most of the people around me wanted to run about the same pace.  The masses kept the first mile slow and the first 5k under control, 5k split:  19:33, 6:18 pace.  

From there for me it was just run to the next 5k split.  I tried not to think of the enormity of the task or the stage, just run to the next set of mats where I knew my progress would be relayed to my family and friends, and that gave me strength and focus.  My vision was narrow and I don’t remember very much about the course, just the huge number of spectators and the density of fast, focused runners around me.  

10k split:  38:57, 6:16 pace (last 5k 19:24, 6:15 pace)
15k:  57:23, 6:16 pace (19:26, 6:15 pace)
20k:  1:17:49, 6:16 (19:26, 6:15 pace)

Next big milestone was the screams from the girls in Wellesley, it is legit and you can hear them from what seems like a mile away.  True to form I enjoyed the moment, appreciated their dedication and support but passed through on pace and on a mission.  

Half:  literally perfect, 1:22:00, 6:15 pace, 30 seconds ahead of 2:45 pace, expecting a slight fade in the second half, feeling good and under control.  

25k:  1:37:09, 6:15 (19:20, 6:13 pace) ok maybe the Wellesley girls amped me up a little bit

30k (18.6 miles):  1:56:50, 6:15 (19:41 6:20 pace) start of the hills, still feeling ok but legs starting to tighten up a little bit.  Keeping the pace was becoming more of a struggle. It is around here that I realize that something bad was looming, but I was hopeful that I can get to the finish line before it happens.

Somewhere around 19 I hear my name.  I think it is an angel to magically transport me to the finish, or at least forward in time, but as it turns out it is just Michel Kahn, apparently I passed him.  He went out fast, about a minute ahead of me at the half and was paying for it (I should have asked him why he marathons).  I did my best to encourage him and distract myself, but as rapidly as he appeared he was gone and I was left to reckon with the remaining hills

35k(21.7 miles):  2:16:34, 6:17 (19:44, 6:21 pace) the good news is I survived the Newton hills including Heartbreak.  The bad news is the writing is on the wall, my legs are very tight and I am now experiencing shooting cramps in both calves, but even worse in both hamstrings.  Also at this point I am absolutely hating the downhills.  I never believed the people that said that by the end of Boston they preferred the uphills to the downhills.  But at this point my legs were trashed and the downhills hurt considerably more.  

Around this point I tried to tell myself that there was “only” 4.5 miles left of the best marathon on earth and I should cherish it and be worried that it was rapidly coming to an end.  That mind game failed.  At this point I was just terrified of a melt down and my legs were telling me one was coming as the shooting cramps in my hamstrings began to occur more and more frequently.  
40k (24.8 miles):  2:36:56, 6:19 (20:22, 6:33) Running to the Citgo sign, but the the wheels are coming off, the top half of me feels ok, but the entire bottom (important) half of me is done.  My stride is trash.  My already compact stride has been shortened by the cramping especially in the hamstrings.  I can’t keep the pace.  I know it is falling off and I want to go faster, I try to go faster but I can’t.  I have the will but my legs literally will not propel me any faster.  Despite the fade off my pace I am very happy with how I battled here, I had not given up on my goal of sub 2:45 and I kept trying to surge to find a way to get back on pace.  It was during one of these “surges" that...

BANG, it was like I heard and gunshot, my first reaction was that the sound was my right hamstring snapping a la Derek Redmond.  I limped quickly to a stop, even now it is hard to imagine that anything could stop me, but in that moment it was physically impossible for me to run.  As I came to a stop I looked up and I was standing exactly at the huge 25 mile marker of the marathon.  One thing I will always remember is the crowd, I noticed them because of the sound. As I pulled up the sound was most comparable to the sound I heard in Fenway on Sunday when the crowd was looking for a big strike out and the ump didn’t oblige. It was like a loud sigh but also exasperated and upset.  I looked up and saw the crowd stacked 10 deep and they wanted me to be running again.  I heard, “NO NO NO, GO GO GO!!” as people pointed down the course, And I tried, first try, nothing right leg won’t bend, tried walking and that wasn’t happening either.   And again I tried to run but without luck.   I was no longer afraid of not hitting my time I was afraid of not finishing.  Then I  heard “RUN, F*CKING RUN!”  I decided that sounded like a good idea and I would try to run if only for 5 steps.  I bit my lip and pushed through the initial pain and found I could hobble run.  I will never forget the sound that the crowd made as I got going again.  It was amazing.  It literally propelled me forward, I had to keep going.  

I wish I could remember anything good from that last 1.2 miles, but they were literally the longest miles of my life.  Despite the amazing stage and the amazing Boston crowds, I remember no appreciation, no joy as I hobbled home.  I just had to get to the line, I just wanted to be done.  

I was hemorrhaging time, I was getting passed by the dozens, but as I neared the line relief washed over me.  I have never been so relieved to finish a race.  I walked the last few steps across he line, raising my hand in the air (a la Danielle winning Thunder Road), and it was over.  

The worst part of finishing in 2:47 as opposed to 2:45 is the women around me who just missed qualifying for the Olympic trials.  I am sure the feel was completely different 2 mins ahead but that is not where I finished.  I finished with a few women who are infinitely more talented than I and missed their goal by 30-90 seconds, in a two hour forty-seven minute  race that is less than 1% off the standard.  As bad as I felt at that moment, I felt worse for them.  

Post Race:  Another problem with these big marathons is the finishing chutes are LONG.  I tried to hobble through but I was really struggling.  Every time I stopped nice volunteers came to my aid and offered me assistance.  I didn’t need assistance I just needed to not be moving and maybe sit down.  At the time I didn’t really appreciate it, but in retrospect, with 26,500 people coming behind, the volunteers really had to keep everyone moving.  After turning down about 10 offers of wheelchairs I hobbled up and received my medal.  The next offer of a wheelchair I accepted and I was swept off to the little piece of heaven that was the medical tent.  They laid me down, gave me a ton of gatorade, covered me with blankets and worked on my cramping legs.  After about a half an hour I was able to convince them to let me go so I could find Danielle.  Somehow I found Danielle almost immediately and learned that she ran a gutty 3:14.  I began to see other Charlotte folks and heard about Woodbury’s monster 2:42, Beigay’s PR, not to mention the incredible  performances by Mutai, Davila and Hall.    

All and all I consider it a successful day.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fenway, Faneuil, and a Marathon


Chad will recap the actual running of the 115th Boston Marathon later (like when we're done eating and touring the Sam Adams Brewery), I'm just going to ramble more about our trip to Boston.
You can see inside the field from inside

On Sunday we decided to take a trip to Fenway Park to check out the Sox-Blue Jays game.  As Yankee fans we figured it would be great fun to watch the Red Sox lose.  Sadly, they won, but since they are currently in the basement of the AL East it is ok.  Plus the fans were much friendlier.  Fenway is amazing.  We started with a beer in the Bleacher Bar and then ate some tasty street vendor food.  Our seats were great and a home run was hit to the section next to us.  The interesting part about Fenway is that even though it is really old, it doesn't feel that way.   Plus the food was delicious.

After the game, we strolled around Faneuil Hall with all the other tourists and did a little window shopping.  One thing that really impressed me was the number of bars with people drinking at all times of day.  Bostonians apparently are fans of bars and beer.  This is the sign of an excellent group of people.  Now if only they could figure out how to root for better sports teams...

We stopped in to check out the Pre-Race dinner next.  The initial part was kinda crappy, but once we were seated it was nice.  The food was fine and there was plenty of eat and drink (and beer- see Boston = beer).  We watched the first half of the Knicks-Celtics game before heading back to the condo to get ready for the marathon.

True to form, we took no pictures after the marathon.  I shouldn't be surprised since we don't have any from any of the marathons we've run together.  Apparently we're tired afterwards?  Not sure why.  These are the pictures from right before we got off the bus.  Still looking happy and pain free.  That would change.
Lookin good in the new One2Tri singlet

All smiles before running

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shipping up to Boston

We have arrived in Boston!  Our travel was blissfully uneventful.  We were on flight "super fast" with the Hovii & and Colleen and Chris Cummins.  The condo we are renting in Charlestown is awesome.  It's a half block from the Bunker Hill Monument and a ten minute walk from the T.

Our plan was to grab a casual lunch and hit the Expo.  On our trip to the Expo we inadvertently crashed into the finish line.  It was very cool to see the finish and think that soon we would be crossing that line.

My lunch
Our casual lunch turned fancy when we spotted Atlantic Fish.  They were booked with over 400 reservations on Saturday night, but did have tables for available for lunch.  So, we stopped in and had a fabulous lunch.  

Then we hit up the Expo and Trader Joe's for some provisions.  Although it was nearly 7:30 by the time we got back to the condo, we decided to try a local thai place for dinner then venture back into Boston, specifically some bars in the Fanuiel Hall area.

Scorpion bowl- 2 straws
We ended up at a place called Hong Kong.  They were selling chicken on a stick for $1 and everyone was dancing around to terrible 90s music and drinking scorpion bowls.  Obviously, we had to partake.  Not in the sketchy meat part, but in the sketchy frat-party style beverages.  We had one.  Or two.  I can't recall.  But I do recall thinking that Allen Strickland would love this place and if we're ever in Boston when he is, the first scorpion bowl is on us.

We saw this guy on our walk back from the T:

He is using his right arm to secure the mattresses.  Winning!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Big Week (worthy of all of these words)

I (Chad) spent last week doing two things, (1) planning Danielle's 30th birthday, and (2) trying to convince her to let me race the Elizabeth 8k. Obviously her birthday was a very big deal and needed appropriate planning. Racing like 9 days prior to Boston was probably a bad idea, which is why it took me all week to convince her that it would be ok. I am a notorious over-racer but if she tells me not to race I listen. I wanted to race for two reasons, first because I did not know of anyone really fast racing, I love taking a chance to try and win. I am still kicking myself for running a different race last year (disasterous Ada Jenkins Fire 5k ) when I might have been able to win the 8k, especially frustrating because the 8k has great prizes. The second reason I was itching to race was because I had a mediocre 4 miler (and poor stair climb) and I needed a confidence boost going into Boston. At this point the physical work is all done, but it is very important to be in the right state of mind.

By Friday I still did not know of anyone really fast racing and Danielle was on board with me racing so long as I set conservative goals and was very careful. By the afternoon we had decided that we would both race (of course once I registered I heard rumblings that John Compton might be a last minute entry). I went back to the Charlotte Running Company and registered Danielle, we had decided to incorporate the 8k into our long run and kill two birds with one stone.

Race morning we did a longer warm up, 4 miles part of which we got to do with Stephen Spada, running with him is always a treat. Spada informed me that he had already seen Compton, we would be racing (hopefully each other) for second. I was thankful that I convinced Danielle to run to still give us a chance at the sweet prizes. I do think it is a little silly that first gets three gift certificates and second and third get squadoosh, oh well, not my race.

I figured my honest goal would be to break 28 minutes, but that I would be happy with 28:30 if I ran under control and kept myself feeling good. It was actually a relief to see Compton because it took away any pressure of trying to win. If I am going to lose to someone, Compton is a great person to lose to, extremely talented yet unassuming and friendly, not to mention I don't have to worry about it being close. I did worry if I would be able to see John and the lead bike/car on the confusing course.

Danielle and I switched our shoes, said hello to our friends and One2Tri Racing teammates, did a couple strides and got lined up. The world's worst and most annoying Elvis impersonator sent us off. For about 8 seconds I was in the lead, then John took his rightful place and the battle for second began. I was in a pack of 4 with Spada, and two other guys. The plan was to try and relax as close to 5:35 pace as possible, get through the hills in mile four and then push in the last mile. After a couple miles the other 2 disappeared and it was just Spada and I. He is great to run with because he runs very consistently with great effort and is terrific competitor. As of recently I have been able to nip him in the shorter stuff and I consider that quite and accomplishment. I broke loose from Spada in the hills in the fourth mile and hit the 4 mile mark very close to my goal pace and feeling very good. I picked up the pace was shocked to 27:2x on the clock as I crossed.

Compton won in 26:02, thankfully Tom Patch on the bike dropped back to guide the rest of us through the twisting course. Spada was third and broke 28. I quickly exited the finish chute and ran back out the course to go look for Danielle. I did not have long to wait, she was coming on strong not far behind me as the first female. I cheered her on to back to back Liz 8k wins. Her time was 31:16 with was about 15 seconds slower than last year but considering that she is coming off an injury and very limited running/speed work we were both very enthused. She was happy to be able to race, feel pretty good, and put up a decent time. Winning a 90-minute massage and $50 gift certificates to the Customshop and RedSky Gallery certainly didn't hurt either!

It was another good day for One2tri Racing, coach extraordinaire Nicole Gross had a great race and finished as the 3rd female in 32:46; Keith Mrochek continued his great running season finishing 7th overall and third in a crazy fast 35-39 AG in 29:25. Tom O'Donnell notched second place AG in 32:30. Full results found here
After the race we did the best we could to drag ourselves through a few more miles for a cool down. It is always so difficult because there are so many people to talk to and food/drinks/massage to enjoy post race. We managed to get in about four more miles before giving in to a beer a Hawthorne's Pizza and collecting our awards. It was a great morning, Danielle felt good and got the win, I felt great and came out of that race feeling confident for Boston, we got to see a ton of friends and drink a beer, the day could have ended there and it would have been great. But it didn't...

Then we headed over to Chris and Sarah's, Danielle had to return the tri suit Sarah had generously lent her for Cool Breeze. Of course we happened to show up just in time for chocolate chip banana pancakes and mimosas. After breakfast and relaxing we convinced that crew to join us at Inside Out Sports for the customer appreciation day which was a lot of fun. We bought some more Honey Stinger Waffles (amazing) and some gu's (much less amazing) and I got a sweet deal on a tri top for the bike. We also scored more free food for lunch. Right before leaving we were hanging out with the King and Queen of Charlotte running: Larry and Kathy Seavers, they truly are the best people ever. As we are getting ready to leave Larry and Kathy won a pair of Castelli bike shorts and an underseat bike bag. They don't ride so they generously gave them to us, which was extremely nice but also funny because they are things we definitely needed. Our bike gear is still very much a work in process, just like our riding.

I won't embarrass Danielle too much by posting all about her birthday but lets just say that it included at least some of the following: flowers, Vivace (amazing) cupcakes, midget strippers, shrimp tacos, champagne, Dandelion Market, juice-plus+, amazing friends and a trip to Diamonds Direct. Although I will say that I think she found the single cheapest piece of jewelry (also on sale) at DD. All and all it was a great weekend and we are ready for another epic weekend next weekend in Boston, stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Boston Jitters

Eleven days from today we’ll be flying [not shipping despite the great song] up to Boston (who takes ships anywhere anyways, they would probably miss the race!) In thirteen days we will be enjoying celebratory beverages right now. Sometime in between now and the celebratory beverages there are seven more days of work, two workouts, one medium distance long run, a birthday celebration(?), a flight, a baseball game, and the running of the 115th Boston Marathon.

This training cycle has been a disaster. We had great years least year and were coming into this year off great marathon performances. I (Dee) hit my lifetime goal of breaking 3 hours in the marathon and Chad ran a huge negative split and 10 minute PR in Chicago. The year started off well, with both of us steadily increasing the miles in January, but things got off track early in February. A nagging injury took a turn for the worse and knocked me out of running for nearly five weeks. I did sneak in three slower long runs during this time, but that was the only running I could do and that might have done more harm than good. Chad was in great shape and running some of his highest mileage ever (high 70’s). But in February his back became very painful and made running impossible. The back problems have abated but he has also been dealing with reoccurring problems with his right Achilles and calf. In spite of it all, we’re now two weeks out and each have three 18 mile runs. I have run 20 miles twice and Chad has run 20 or more four times with some tempo miles mixed in.  It is just the rest of the running volume that has missing and leaving us both a little nervous.

Doesn't leisurely look like fun?
Could we be fitter? Sure, but right now Chad is still in shape to lower his PR (2:53:38) while I plan to enjoy my first Boston Marathon stress free, a la Joan Benoit Samuelson. She reflects on the Athens Classic Marathon: “I ran the marathon at a leisurely pace with a fanny pack and a camera and finished in 3:03. It was the first time I ran a marathon for fun and not for competition. Although it was the slowest one of my career, it was one of the most memorable.” LOL she is like 53 years old and 3:03 is literally leisurely. She is my hero! I don’t plan to bring a camera or a fanny pack (or run a 3:03), but I do plan to thoroughly enjoy this experience.

We’re really looking forward to catching up with Megan Hovis, Mike Beigay, Mike Kahn and Bill Shires after the race and, of course, to eating as much delicious food as we can. This is shaping up to be a great trip.