Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Don't Look Back"

Way back in the Dark Ages (1970's), yours truly was a middle school student just discovering his love for playing the drums......music was EVERYTHING to me (clearly the beginning of a life-long passion).  My favorite band was Boston....a bunch of local dudes who created an iconic sound with their self-titled debut album in 1975.  I played that thing ENDLESSLY.....practically wore it out......and learned all of the drum parts to every song.  We all figured the follow-up would come out quickly.....but we waited.......and waited.......and waited..........and waited........until finally, in late summer 1978, they came out with their second album......titled "Don't Look Back".

2013 was the worst year of my running life...............I'm pretty sure I started the year not fully recovered from running the Hartford Marathon in October 2012, which then led to on-going injuries throughout the year to follow.  My right foot was in such a painful state back in March that I had to basically shut down my training for the Vermont City Marathon in May. I still tried to run it, but that was pretty much the end of my year.  Yes, I "ran" a few 5K's toward the end of the summer/early fall, but my times were the slowest of my life.  Now, my feet are fine, but my right knee is in nearly constant pain, causing me to shut it down again and potentially seek out a medical solution.

So where does it leave me as I look forward to 2014?

I'm not going to look back........as the view SUCKS!

I'm only going to look forward to better things in 2014........not going to be foolish and make ANY predictions, as I truly have no idea of what I'll be able to do and when I'll be able to do it....all I think I'm going to do is try to maintain a positive outlook and try to just get myself started again.  That's all.....

Here's to a great year ahead!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's been a while.......

Yeah, it's not as if I've had much to write about over the last few months......

Look, this year has turned disastrous for me.....running-wise, that is.  Professionally, things have never been better.  As bad as last school year was, I'm probably having more fun now teaching than I ever have in my 9 years in the classroom.  Personally, all is well with my family.......

But this is a running blog, and the mere fact that I haven't posted anything since June is telling.  I "ran" today for the first time in LITERALLY a month, and I can honestly say that I have no idea what is going on.  After having a lot of heel pain starting in January and running through the summer, my mileage had been way off, forcing me to cut short my training for my last marathon.....well, the heel pain has gone away, but it was replaced by knee pain in my right knee.  It almost felt as if I'd hyper-extended it, as the pain registered behind the kneecap, as well as just above the kneecap in front.  After my last attempt at a 5K in September, I shut it down, figuring that rest would either help it, or make it go away altogether.

Finally, after not running at all since October 5th, I felt I needed to have an easy test to see how my body would feel.  In spite of trying to do some cardio at the gym (stationary bike, elliptical, etc...), I'm pretty sure we can all agree that the best way to stay in running shape is by running.  I knew my aerobic fitness would be nearly non-existent, and I was right.  I set myself up one of the dreadmills at Planet Fitness, hit 30 minutes on the timer, and set off using a Galloway-esqe 3/1 ratio (run for 90 seconds, walk for 30 seconds).  I felt some discomfort behind my right knee through the first few minutes, but that seemed to subside as I got warmer.  I managed to get through the 30 minutes, vowing to myself that every journey starts with a single step and that if I'm to still be a runner, then I'm going to have to work my way out of this hole......

Now, as I get ready for bed, I'm feeling that familiar discomfort in my right knee.....perhaps I'll wake up in the morning and it'll be fine.......or maybe it won't be.  I'm trying to remain hopeful, but I'm awfully frustrated. 

Anyway, thanks for lending your sympathetic virtual ears.....it helps to vent!

See you all (hopefully) out there on the road!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What a difference a year makes.....

As it's my birthday today, I was just waxing nostalgic.......looking at posts I made last June, when I was starting to train for the Hartford Marathon.  Looking back now, it was probably the last time I felt "right" with my running......no injuries to deal with........no school-year stresses to deal with.........just a wonderful, restful summer to look forward to.

Here I sit, a year later.........and I haven't run since the Vermont City Marathon over Memorial Day weekend.....still dealing with occasional foot pain.........and dealing with an extra week of school due to all of the snow days we had this winter.   I would've started running again last week, but I was chaperoning our 8th grade trip to Washington, DC and didn't have a minute to spare.  Since I started running back in 2008, I haven't ever taken this long off.......

So once I start back running, it's almost as if I'm going back to the start.........and that's going to be a good thing.  I've kinda lost some of my enthusiasm for it, and I'm going to have to find it again.  My hope is that I'll be able to use this summer break as an opportunity to really hit the "reset" button, hit the gym with regularity to work on core strength and flexibility, while making the time to build back my running in a logical, systematic manner.  I look forward to having the opportunity to rediscover my love for running again........

Father's Day was really nice.......as it nearly coincides with my birthday, we went to my Dad's house and celebrated both together........my family got me a shiny new Kindle Fire!  It was completely unexpected....totally "off list"......and something I'm definitely going to love using!   I hope all of my running Dads had a great Father's Day, too!

That's all for now.........see you all out there on the road.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

25th Anniversary Vermont City Marathon recap

Is it indicative of my feelings that it's taken me nearly two weeks to post a recap of my most recent marathon?   Yeah, I think it is......when we have great races, we can't wait to tell everyone within earshot (or, with our fellow bloggers, "eyeshot").......and even though I knew going in this marathon was going to test my limits, it still took me this long to sit at the keyboard to relive it all again....

Barb and I had planned to make a full weekend out of the trip up to Vermont, so after dropping Ben off at his friend's house, we hit the road for the nearly 4-hour drive to Burlington.  As we drove out of Massachusetts and into New Hampshire, the rain and wind started up.....as expected.  I hadn't really been obsessing about the weather like I might have normally, but I'd still been holding out hope that things MIGHT improve......nope!  The further north we went, the more rain and wind we encountered.  What normally would have been a lovely scenic drive was more of a slog, but before too long, we were in the Green Mountain State and getting off the highway to check into the hotel.  As the Sheraton was also the site for the Expo, the parking lot was jammed, but we successfully checked in and found our way to our room.  We made a quick run through the expo, where I picked up my bib and Barb and I did a little shopping (adding another hoodie to my collection!).  Ben even scored a cool RunVermont shirt with a cow on the front.

finished at the expo...looking to put my feet up!

After dropping our stuff off back in the room, Barb and I headed into downtown Burlington to grab a late lunch.  We love the "college town" vibe of Burlington (it's the home of the University of Vermont) and quickly found ourselves at the Vermont Pub and Brewery.  While I didn't partake of a micro-brew (in hindsight, I probably should have!), we enjoyed the pubgrub and relaxed ambiance.  Prior to returning to the hotel, we ordered a pizza from American Flatbreads to eat back in the room.
Barb and I ducking out of the rain...chilly but happy!

We returned to the hotel, and while washing down bites of pizza with Gatorade, I pinned my bib to my race shirt and started to get my mind right with what I had ahead of me in the morning.  As you all know from what I've already written, I had gotten injured sometime in January and was simply unable to really train for this marathon.  Well, now it was only little more than 12 hours away, so it was time to try to push the doubts out of my mind.  Hard as I would try, they wouldn't leave, so I just started reminding myself that I'm stronger than I think I am and that I know I can make the distance.  My sincere goal was to finish the race, and hopefully enjoy the experience.  Looking at the rain and wind just outside the window, I knew that "enjoy" was going to be hard to come by.......

I actually slept pretty well for a few hours.....and then it seemed as if I was napping off and on for the next few hours, but around 5:30, I got out of bed for good.....took a look outside and here's what I saw:

race morning...42 degrees w/rain and 20-25 mph winds....my kind of marathon weather!

I knew what the weather was going to be, but I had been hopeful.....no luck.  It was going to be cold, rainy and windy.  Barb had gone down to the lobby and gotten me some bagels with peanut butter and some coffee, so as I got dressed, I tried to eat.  I decided I would go with a long-sleeve shirt underneath my race shirt, figuring on the conditions not improving too much over the course of the day.  As it turned out, while the rain did stop eventually, the cold and wind didn't, so I made the right choice.  Just before I left, Barb took a picture of her intrepid runner:

smiling.....clearly the overly hopeful "before" picture!

And then I walked towards the lobby.....seeing other runners bundling up and using trash bags as makeshift ponchos.  I opted to just go with what I had on, figuring the rain/cold/wind wouldn't be too bad and I'd be running soon.  I had a bottle of Gatorade and a plastic baggie filled with Swedish Fish, so I was good to go......had 5 GU's on me (3 in the back pocket of my shorts, 2 in the "bag" attached to my handheld bottle), as well as lightweight fleece gloves and my handheld bottle.  As I boarded the yellow school bus to go to the starting area, I reminded myself that I was as ready as I was going to be and that it was time to prove the point........that I was stronger than the conditions......that I was stronger than I thought I could be.........and that even despite the lack of training, I'd still be able to get out there and give it my best.........that no matter what the time said, I AM a marathoner!

The bus wound it's way downtown, until we suddenly stopped near Battery Park along the Lake Champlain waterfront.......and we shuffled off the bus and out into the conditions.  Instantly, I was cold and wet.....again, as mentally prepared you might be for it, the reality is always just a little bit harsher.  As it was only around 7:20am and the race wouldn't start until 8am, I looked for a place to try to stay out of the rain (if possible) that wasn't too far from the port-o-lets.  Luckily, I found a tree to stand under, along with lots of other people.  The race organizers had Bart Yasso, Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, and Jeff Galloway speaking over the PA, encouraging the assembled masses to enjoy the weather.  HA HA HA!  I actually was shivering....teeth chattering........wondering just how much it was taking out of my limited physical abilities..

Soon enough, it was time to head over to the start corrals........the mood was subdued, befitting the crappy weather.  I could hear the count-off and then the horn sounded......I wasn't nervous......I just wanted to get started so that I could warm up.  The field was small enough that I was actually running before I hit the start line.  The first 3-4 miles were run around and through downtown Burlington, and the crowd support was terrific....even in the cold and rain, the locals turned out.  An early highlight was running through the downtown shopping area (Church Street), where about all I really remember is the drag queen that was leading the cheers.  My splits (10:39, 10;20, 11:00, 10:19) reflected the terrain (generally flat) and my desire to run conservatively.

And then, things started to change........and not for the better.

The next 5 miles were run on the Northern Connector (called "The Beltline" by locals), a divided highway closed only once a year for this race.  The race website says you'll "enjoy beautiful views of the Green Mountains and get a chance to see the leaders and your friends as you cross paths".  Well, the views might be enjoyable on a clear day, but there wasn't much to see beyond the road beneath our feet.  I've always found "out and back" sections to be a tad demoralizing, as it's more visual evidence of my general slowness, and this day was no different.  Add to that the gentle, continuous downhill on the out, and the gentle, continuous uphill on the back, and by mile 9, I was starting to get a little cranky.  Additionally, I had a VERY hard time finding a flat area to run on, as it seemed to me that the road surface was tilted.....a lot of the roads I run on here are similarly tilted, but you can usually find a flat area for at least some of the time......but I never really found it on the Beltline.  My splits for this section (11:13, 11:09, 11:08, 12:02, 12:10) show that out/back difference.  The course then ran back through Burlington and out through some residential neighborhoods......by Mile 10, I was already ready to quit the race.  This marathon was also being run as a relay, and there were buses at the exchange points to drop off and return runners.........kept telling myself that the next time I saw a bus, I was getting on.  

This was serious......never before had I EVER entertained thoughts of quitting a race.  Splits for miles 10-13 (11:08, 12:07, 12:57, 12:25) show the effect the mental struggle was having on my race.  As I neared the halfway point, the mental dialogue continued.....you made it halfway....you've been injured.....you're undertrained......people will understand.......but somehow, I dug down and found the resolve to continue.  I reminded myself that I had long ago thrown out any real race plan and decided I'd be running this marathon with a goal of just finishing, so as I headed towards mile 14, I relaxed and shifted into more of a "survival" mode......which was a good thing, because the next 2 miles would be run mostly alongside Lake Champlain.  On a normal late spring day, I'd imagine this would be a beautiful stretch to run, but on this raw, windy day, it was miserable.  The wind was whipping the water, and the low clouds were obscuring any pretty views there might have been of the mountains surrounding the lake.  Once again, my splits (14:47, 13:15) reflected how I was feeling.  Before too long, the route swung off the lake to hit the most serious hill on the course.....Battery Street.......the well-named "Assault on Battery".  It's only 6 blocks long, but the way I felt by the time I looked up to find the top of the hill, it looked like it was 6 miles long!  The race organizers had arranged for the Burlington Taiko Drummers to be situated at the start of the climb, blasting out a solid rhythm for the runners........it didn't help me at all, as I half-ran, half-walked my way up the hill. 

The wheels were starting to come off the wagon at this point (13:59, 14:19), but I wasn't going to give up.....by now, I was thinking about what it might feel like to finish last in a marathon.  Mile 18 went by in 17:36, but that was due to a lengthy potty stop.  There really wasn't much to mention about mile 19 (13:01) and 20 (13:53), as they were run through residential neighborhoods which were mostly pretty quiet.  By this point, I was really starting to hurt....my hips were feeling very tight, and my heel pain was growing......but I wasn't quitting......not now......NO WAY!

Still, the wheels were falling off.......Mile 21 (14:50) and 22 (14:07).....difficult doesn't even describe it, but I wasn't quitting.  By Mile 23, we were back on the tree-lined bikepath alongside the lake, but now we were heading back into Burlington and the finish was looming.  Too much walking (15:26) and then I noticed my nipples were bleeding (another first.....great!).  Miles 24 (14:52) and 25 (13:30) went by in a bit of a blur, but I powered through.  During Mile 26 (14:09), the path opened up and the finishing area started to come into view.  Suddenly, I could see the beer tents on my left, and being one of the "later" finishers, the tents were FULL of runners.......needless to say, they cheered for us VERY enthusiastically, and that, along with the realization that the sweet feeling of finishing was just ahead spurred me on.  

The final 100+ meters of the marathon takes place on a stretch of grass, which must be nice on a normal (sunny) spring day, but after 5+ hours in the rain, it was a muddy slippery mess.  I turned for home and started picking my way through the muck.........when I saw my wife about halfway up on the railing along the left-hand side.  She usually manages to find a way to see me finish and this one was no exception.  I made a beeline towards her for a quick hug and kiss and then turned to finish my race.  One of the nice things about finishing so late is that the finish line announcer was able to announce my finish........and then I crossed the line.

After getting my medal, space blanket, and a chocolate milk, I turned the corner and found Barb........I collapsed into her arms and started crying.......tears of relief, pride, and frustration.  I hadn't quit, but it was my slowest marathon ever.  

10K:    1:07:09
10 M:  1:51:55
13.1:    2:31:04
20 M:  4:11:36
26.2:   5:41:07

relief....frustration......but PURE FORTITUDE.  I haven't yet realized they've given me the wrong medal.

We went back to the hotel and, after hobbling back to the room, I realized very quickly that I had been given the wrong medal!  I'd gotten a 2-person relay medal.........after I showered and dressed, Barb and I headed out to have some dinner and then catch a movie.  We'd wanted to see the new Star Trek movie, so we looked for a place to eat near the theater.  As we were no longer near downtown Burlington, the choices were a little limited, but we hit the Ninety-Nine restaurant.......I totally enjoyed my marinated steak tips!  We had a little time before the movie, so Barb and I walked (slowly) through the mall and then headed to the theater.  The movie was terrific, but all of my post-race hydration took it's toll......after my 3rd trip to the men's room, we moved down to seats closer to the exit so that I wouldn't have to keep walking over people.  After the movie, we headed back to the hotel for a well-earned sleep.

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed back into Burlington for breakfast.  After a lovely meal at Henry's Diner (as we were having breakfast, the RunVermont people issued a statement regarding the medal mixup....small consolation I wasn't the only one who received the wrong medal...they've actually had to order more marathon medals and we should get them sometime in July!), we walked around through the shopping district, enjoying the ironic sunshine......oh yeah, did I mention that the day after the marathon, the skies cleared and temps jumped back up to a more seasonally correct 70?   Yeah, it was a BEAUTIFUL day!!!

downtown Burlington, VT......simply beautiful!
So that was that.........I'd signed up.......gotten injured.......wasn't able to train.........but still we went for a weekend away and I proved to myself that I'm a marathoner.  I'll never be fast, but that's not the point.  I knew it was going to be difficult......I knew it was going to be slow......I knew I would have a hard time looking at my time without cringing.........but I did it anyway. 

It's been nearly 2 weeks, and I haven't yet run......I'll be chaperoning my 8th grade students on our annual class trip to Washington, DC this week (leaving Tuesday, back on Friday), so it's going to be at least another week until I get out on the road, but that's not a bad thing.  I'm still hurting, but I think that's more from the effort I put into my chorus rehearsal Thursday night than any lingering issues from the marathon.  I'm actually feeling pretty good, overall, and am starting to look forward to getting back on the road.  I do think I'm done with marathons for a while.......certainly for 2013.  I might shift my focus to the 13.1 distance for a while.....I think I can train for and run half-marathons without injury, and that might be the way to go for a while........we'll see.

That's all for now, my friends.......thanks for all of your encouragement and support.  I look forward to reading about all of your adventures and hope to add some of my own along the way.

See you all out there on the road!

Monday, May 27, 2013

I didn't quit......


The race report will have to wait a little while, but I ran the 25th Annual Keybank Vermont City Marathon yesterday in Burlington, Vermont.  I knew going in that I was under-trained, and that I was probably going to struggle, and that the weather was going to be CRAPPY, and all of those were true.......but I didn't quit.

I'm more than a little sore today (right heel tender, but actually not too bad....the real problem is now my left achilles tendon, as I was probably compensating for the right heel and landing differently on my left....ugh!) but so proud of myself for fighting through the self-doubt and negative thoughts that hit me around the 10-mile mark and fighting the good fight all the way to the line.  Even though the wheels REALLY came off the wagon in the 2nd half (and REALLY REALLY came off the wagon between miles 20 and 26.2), I thought about my son at home.....I want to instill all the good values all fathers want for their sons (and daughters!), but particularly the value of persistence and perseverance.  I didn't want to try to explain to him that Daddy quit his race because he was having a bad day.  I cried in my wife's arms just past the finish line.......tears of frustration and relief.  It was BY FAR my toughest race.......and I didn't quit.

Full race recap to come later.....

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Forget "the hay is in the barn".......try "the fertilizer is in the shed!"

In a recent blog post, someone whose blog I follow was referencing her marathon training with the saying "the hay is in the barn", meaning that the training is done and all that's left to do is run your race.  Turns out, we're both going to be running the very same marathon (Keybank Vermont City Marathon - Burlington, VT) this coming Sunday. 

In my case, as far as my "training" is concerned, I'll go with "the fertilizer is in the shed".  I sanitized the last phrase for your protection.  My training cycle......well, it never really got off the ground.  The good news is....I'm rested.........the bad news is.......I'm rested from LACK OF RUNNING.   #fail

Any expectations, any hopes of a particular time......all out the window now.  I'm going to find a slow pace group and hang on for dear life.

The expected weather.......looks CRAPPY.  rain....wind......and temps MAYBE hitting 50.  Perfect......my 4th marathon with crappy weather.   At least it's not going to be hot like Boston last April!

My foot.....who the hell knows?   I might be fine, or I might start running and fall over.  I'm honestly not going to know until the gun goes off Sunday morning.   Great.....gives me LOTS of confidence.

Part of me just wants to drive up to Vermont with my wife and enjoy a weekend away......take the DNS and move on..........but there's that other side of me that says unless I'm in a hospital bed, I'm running.  I feel like this is an internal argument I'm going to be having right up until the gun goes off.

So that's it......face it, when it comes to where I'm at so far in 2013, I'm depressed.  Definitely not turning out as I'd planned.

But who knows?  I might have a great time on Sunday and surprise myself........could happen!

So wish me luck......my dear friends whom I've never met.  Think I'll need your support......


P.S.  for those following along at home, I'm runner #3205

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Time to end the pity party!

I'm not going to lie to you.......this has been a tough period of time for me.  Since finishing the Hartford Marathon last October, my running has taken a pretty sharp detour to a relatively bad place.  I came into 2013 with big hopes and plans, wanting to run 2 marathons (Spring and Fall), as well as many other races........and since injuring my right heel way back in January, that just isn't going to happen.  I'm doing a little better physically, but my mileage is WAY off of both where I thought it would be, and where I know it should be.  I've got the Vermont City Marathon coming up in a little more than 2 weeks, and the plan was to try for a PR......well, that's not happening.  My goal now is to just enjoy a beautiful run through the lovely Vermont countryside, having a great time without worrying about my time at all.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll feel great and run a respectable time?   The main point is that I'm only running this to finish.....anything more will be a bonus.

Beyond the running however, is what could be seen as the real culprit behind my difficult year.  This has been BY far the most challenging year I've had since becoming a teacher in 2005.  I've had to work with new colleagues, which is a common challenge for educators.  That situation has normalized, but it definitely added to the stress I've been feeling.  Then, I've had to take on a different grade level.....for those who teach high school, that's part of their normal load, but in middle school it's a bit unusual.  For the past 7 years, I've taught US History to 8th graders, but this year, my load is split between 8th grade and 7th grade World Geography.  While taking on the additional curriculum is helping me become a better teacher, learning to deal with 7th grade students has been very difficult.  8th grade is practically high school, and those students tend to be more driven, focused, and mature.  7th grade is one step removed from 6th grade, which is basically elementary school, and their behavior is reflective of that proximity.  Again, learning to navigate through the curriculum while juggling all of the behavior issues will help make me stronger in the classroom, but just like ANYTHING else that makes you stronger, it's exhausting.  Most days, by the time I'm ready to leave school, I can barely muster the energy to get in my ride, let alone gear up for running.

Needless to say, I come home from work every day a bit beaten-up and mentally fried.......not terribly conducive to lacing 'em up and hitting the road.  I've been trying to fight through it as best I can, but combined with my foot injury, I find myself taking more days off than ever...........I keep hoping my foot will fully recover, and my school year will end on June 26th, so there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel.   My hope is that the physical recovery will spill over and improve my mental outlook.  That, in combination with a break from teaching, will be the tonic I seek.  Naturally, I'm already worried about next year, but that's just a bridge I'll have to cross at that time.

It's been really hard to blog this year, because I feel like all I'm going to do is vent my frustrations, and that doesn't make for good reading......so I've been noticeably quiet.  I appreciate all of you for reading, and I take great inspiration from all of your blogs......guess it reminds me that the sun will shine for me again, as it's shining for so many of you.  I thank God every day for my wife.....without her, I'd really be struggling right now.  She's been so patient, kind, and helpful with me as I try to navigate through all this crap.  She's always been my biggest champion and knowing she's got my back means everything to me.  "Into every life, some rain must fall...", right?  My girl does her best to hold that umbrella up for me, and I love her more than I can say.  Our son is also helping me through, in that way only a 9-year old can......just by being his usual goofy, sweet, adorable, kind, gentle self.   He makes me so happy and proud to be his Daddy every day!

So the title of the post says it's time to end the pity party.......and that's just what I'm going to be focusing on for the next few weeks.  I've never been one to wallow and I think this venting has helped already!!

See you all out there on the road!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A much-needed "recovery" run.....

Most of you use recovery runs to recover from a hard effort, or from a long run.....but after the events of yesterday, my needs were more of the mental/emotional/spiritual kind.  My spirit was crushed yesterday, and desperately needed to be restored.

As many of you already know, I started this blog in an effort to chronicle my training for the 2012 Boston Marathon.  I, like many others, will never qualify to run in my hometown marathon, but I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a part of a charity team (Melanoma Foundation of New England), so I guess you could say I snuck in through the back door.  There are those out there who look down on the charity runners, never taking into account the hard work we do to both train for the race AND reach the fundraising goals set by the BAA.  I'll never understand ANYONE who looks down on anyone else who runs a marathon, but people get a little nutty about Boston.  After all, it's probably on everyone's "bucket list" and seeing people run the race who didn't make a qualifying time.......but considering the fact that the charity runners don't take away spots held for those who actually qualify on time, I can't understand the enmity.  Considering the amounts raised for the various worthwhile charities who partner with the BAA, I can't see any negatives, but there are always going to be those who seek to diminish any of us who don't fit their preconceived profile/image of what a Boston runner should be.....

Naturally, I'd like to think that those people will keep their opinions to themselves now......

Barb, Ben and I made our way into the city to cheer on the runners at the beginning of the Newton hills...just past the fire station where you turn off of Route 16 and onto Commonwealth Avenue.  Those of you who've run Boston know that the marathon truly begins on those hills.....the 17+ miles before those hills are just an extended warmup.  We got down there early enough to see all the elites come by.....WOW.  They just seem to float by.......their amazing form hiding the effort.  Got a great shot of the woman from Portugal who was leading at the time.  After the elites, we stayed to cheer on all the runners that followed.  It was fascinating watching all the runners go by.......some of them seriously concentrating on the hills, while others were just enjoying being part of the most incredible parade in the world!  It was also interesting to watch the form of the runners change as the runners from Wave 1 gave way to those from Wave 2.....and then Wave 3.  Finally, my buddy Jose found me for a sweaty hug, and our day as spectators was done...

I left totally inspired to run......and a little bittersweet for not being a part of the parade.

We then went to lunch (at the always terrific Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, MA) and then headed home.

I was driving west on the Mass Pike and noticed rather quickly that there seemed to be an unusually large number of State Police cars streaming into the city, lights blazing.  I remarked to Barb that "something is wrong".........how unfortunately right I was.

I can't even begin to put words to how I feel.......all I can say is that I'm so glad that none of my friends who were running were hurt....none of their family or friends were hurt, either, but clearly my city and our marathon will never be quite the same.  I don't know what to tell my son......he wasn't around for 9/11, but we've talked through that before.  Barb and I were newlyweds....only married for about 6 weeks at the time, and having to confront the randomness.  This is different.....the scale is obviously smaller, but it's OUR city......and the first bomb went off not far from where Barb and Ben were cheering for me when I was crying my eyes out as I was finishing the Marathon last year.

So this morning, I set out to run.....to clear my head.....to find or make some meaning of everything.  I knew that 2.62 wasn't going to be enough for me, so I intended to double it and go for 5.24 instead.  It was such a beautiful day here today.......seasonably warm....clear skies........perfect for running.  And while my running usually serves the purpose of providing me with much-needed clarity, I sit here now, hours later, no clearer about anything that I was previously.  I've read so many blogs already, and everyone is expressing their shock, sorrow, sadness, and confusion.

I have resolve.

I will never be able to run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I am determined to toe the line in Hopkinton next April......if for nothing more than to thumb my nose at those behind this cowardly attack.  They will not stop us, and they will not stop me.  I raised the money in 2012 and I will do it again.  To honor those who lost their lives.......to honor those who were injured.....to honor the first responders who turned towards the carnage and confusion when others would turn away.....that the determination to run a marathon cannot be defeated.

As you all know, I've been dealing with a nagging injury this year.  2013 has not unfolded the way I had hoped it would, but I'm not going to let it stop me.  I have a marathon to run in 6 weeks that I am clearly not going to be fully or completely prepared for, but I'm going to do it anyway.  I'm going to persevere, because THAT'S WHAT BOSTONIANS DO!!!!!!!    We will continue.....we will not be defeated......we will not cower......we will not be afraid........we will go on and we will rise again!

Boston 2014 will be a celebration of the human spirit......a celebration of the City of Boston......a celebration of all that is good and right with humanity........a celebration of runners and running........and the best damn parade around.

I'm going to do all I can to be out there next year......to feel that rush of emotions as I make that left turn onto Boylston Street........and there will be tears in my eyes again.  I've cried a lot over the last 24 hours......cried at the sight of the devastation......cried at the sight of the victims.........cried at yet another cherished civic tradition ruined by the actions of cowards......cried at another loss of our collective innocence and sense of security....well, I'm tired of crying.  The only action I can take is to take part.......my tears will be saved for the realization of a dream.

See you on Boylston Street next April!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

No More Drama!

Ok....with apologies to Miss Mary J. Blige.........but that's the way I feel right now!

This has truly been the winter of my discontent..........a year ago, I was focused and determined, with the Boston Marathon looming just a few weeks ahead.  Following a winter nearly devoid of snow, my training was rolling right along.  I was healthy....and excited to complete the journey ahead of me.  The joint focus of getting my mileage in AND raising the required amount of money for my charity....well, that's how this blog got started in the first place!  Needless to say, that ridiculously hot April morning was the adventure of a lifetime, and I still get choked up when I remember the feeling of making that final turn off of Hereford Street onto Boylston Street and seeing that famous finishing straight spread out before me.

Now it's a year later and it seems as if none of that ever happened.

First off,  this has been an epically (is that even a word?  I don't know...nor care!  LOL) crappy winter.....snow storm after snow storm......yuck!  Last winter....well, last winter WASN'T.....only one measurable snow storm, and that was very early on.  I'm a warm weather creature, so it allowed me to easily train for Boston without having to resort to the dreadmill.

A year ago, I was soooooooooo focused.  My training was going great, and I had the secondary focus of raising all the necessary funds for my charity.  Those concurrent efforts led directly to this blog, also giving me A LOT of source material to use for posting.  This winter, I'm injured, off my training program for my upcoming marathon, and finding it REALLY difficult to write.  Blech!

I went to my podiatrist last Monday......he's a runner himself, so he understands that "just don't run on it anymore" is NOT AN OPTION for how to deal with my heel pain.  After examining my foot, he determined it to be a touch of bursitis.  He taped up my foot with a couple of pads in different areas and told me I could get right back to running again, but I couldn't get the tape wet until I came back to see him in a week (which is now tomorrow afternoon).  That meant that I couldn't realistically shower all week.......how fun was it to take a bath, all while keeping that foot out of the tub?  It SUCKED!!!!   But I managed.  I still didn't really run all week....longest run was 6 miles this afternoon.......but I was able to run without pain, so perhaps it's getting better.  I am definitely looking forward to going to see him again to work up a treatment plan for the future, as I know he's going to help me address the underlying issues that caused the injury in the first place.

That said, I've got my next marathon coming up on May 26th.  Is it realistic for me to even consider the possibility of shooting for another PR when I've lost the last 3 weeks of training?  There's no doubt that I can finish another marathon......I know what it takes to get there, but I don't want to just finish.....so maybe this is a blessing in disguise?   Maybe I'll hit the starting line undertrained and fresh, relaxed, and with NO REAL EXPECTATIONS.

Ok.......now I feel better!  LOL

I'm going to go to bed hopeful tonight......hopeful that I'll be able to get back on track with my training, get my shit together over the next 2 months, and have another great marathon experience.

At the very least, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have some more to blog about over the next few weeks.....starting tomorrow afternoon!

Rock on, readers......the Diesel will be back out there chasing his dreams......slowly......but steadily!

See you all out there down the road.......

Friday, March 15, 2013

A tough, but necessary decision = heartbreak

After some very difficult soul searching, I reached a very tough decision this afternoon.  The pain I've been feeling in my right heel for several weeks hasn't gone away....if anything, it's gotten worse.  I've tried resting it.....taking several days off when my marathon training schedule has me running.  I've been using ice......stretching.....doing everything I can think of..........hoping it would get better.

But it hasn't.....

I'm supposed to run the New Bedford Half Marathon this coming Sunday morning, but I'm not going to be toeing the line.  In the interest of trying to make it to the line in Burlington, VT for the Keybank Vermont City Marathon over Memorial Day weekend, I'm going to skip New Bedford and completely shut down my running.  As soon as possible, I'm going to go to a podiatrist and have the medical profession take a look at whatever is going on with my right heel. 

I'm not going to lie.......this decision is breaking my heart.  It's not so much the DNS that bothers me, although the only other time I had a DNS was when I was late leaving the house for a race last summer, and this is clearly a physically-related DNS.  What bothers me so much is that I had to admit that I'm injured and need some medical attention.  Not so much that it implies weakness, but just that it wasn't something I felt I could just "tough out" and work through without potentially causing more serious injury.

And as long as I'm being honest, I might as well admit that I haven't been blogging about my running because 2013 hasn't been a lot of fun yet.  My running has been suffering due to this injury, and it's left me a bit dispirited.   I find it very difficult to blog when I just don't have anything positive or inspirational to say.

My hope is that the podiatrist will be able to quickly determine the problem and have a solution that will get me back out on the road very soon.  Naturally, the flip side of that is what I'm most afraid of.....that he'll come back and tell me that it's a more serious problem that will drastically curtail my running.  After talking it over with my wife, she helped me to realize and admit that knowing is better than not knowing, even if it's bad news.  Either way, I'll be able to move forward and get this thing dealt with.

Life has a funny way of jumbling your plans......and I'm now facing a roadblock.  I'm hopeful that it's only temporary, and that I'll be back out there soon enough.   If it isn't, I'll still move forward.  I may be slowed down, but you can't stop The Diesel.......and I've got an appointment with marathon #4!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Marathon training?

so it's been nearly a month since I last blogged.......so much for getting back to it in the new year.  I've never really been one to make "resolutions", but I am goal-driven, so this represents a small "fail".....nothing I can't recover from, but I'm going to have to do a better job.  So as I sit here, enjoying my February vacation, still lounging about in my pajamas, slurping down my 3rd cup of coffee on this lazy Tuesday morning, I'm contemplating just what I want to do today.

The reason I've put a question mark in the title is because it really doesn't feel as if I'm in training for my 4th marathon.  As I mentioned a while back, I'm trying the Hanson's Marathon Method training plan (beginner) for this one, having previously gone with the Higdon plan.  Currently, I'm at the beginning of Week 5 of 18.....and the way the plan is structured, the "fun" doesn't even begin until Week 6.  The first 5 weeks consist of easy runs....ending with a long run of just 6 miles.  As I've been struggling with health/injury issues, my weekly mileage totals have been all over the place so far:

Week                     Plan                      Actual
1                             10                            16
2                             15                             4
3                             21                             8
4                             21                            18

I've previously mentioned that I've been dealing with some heel pain, so I've been working on stretching my right foot often, but over the past 10 days or so, I've been icing that bad boy down and it's REALLY helped a lot.  As a teacher, I'm on my feet all day long, so any foot-related issues tend to get magnified, but I feel like I've turned a corner this week and things are going to get better from here on out.

After one more easy week this week, the Hanson's plan kicks into gear in Week 6 with the introduction of speedwork and a tempo run, as well as an increase in weekly mileage.  I'm thankful that I've carried a solid base forward from last year, but I know I'm going to have to be very careful as things get harder.  I know from previous experience that the training buildup will be difficult, but my goal is to make it to the starting line in Burlington, VT in one piece.  Getting injured is NOT part of my plan, so if I come in a little undertrained, I'll take it.

My next race is coming up in 3 1/2 weeks (New Bedford Half Marathon) and I've got a few friends who are also running that one, so it'll be fun to see them out there.  For me, it's a training run and a "check-in" to see how my training is progressing, so I'm not trying for a PR.  Having run it once before (2009 - 2:04), I know what to expect from the course, so I think 2:10 is a realistic goal.  Of course, I know all too well that the day will bring what the day will bring, so I'll just wait and see.

So today, it's not snowing.......and the rain isn't supposed to start until later this afternoon, and with the temps currently around 40 (with 10+mph winds...feels like 33), I'm thinking I might actually lace 'em up and head out for an easy 5 miles........sounds like a plan.  Time for this diesel to get moving!

See you all out there on the road!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A new beginning.....again!

So the 18-week training cycle leading up to my next marathon begins tomorrow.........and once again, those early doubts start creeping in once again.  As I've been dealing with some nasty little PF issues in my right heel, I'm a little concerned when I look ahead to the increase in both the frequency and distance of training runs.  I'm not really sure what's brought it on.......although I'm pretty sure the weight I've put on since my last marathon (back in October) is a contributing factor.  The weight will come off gradually as I start to train, but any type of pain is always somewhat problematic.  Thankfully, the Hanson plan starts off with a few easy weeks before really ramping things up, so I'm going to do everything I can to stretch out my right foot every day.

I've been doing almost all of my runs lately on the dreadmill, and while it's terribly boring, I'd rather run indoors than not at all.  When I'm not on a training plan, I can freely admit to be not as motivated as I am when on a plan, so I find myself not so inclined to run outside during the winter.  Our winter here in New England has been pretty mild so far, but my hypothyroidism leaves me extra sensitive to cold, particularly in my hands.  Given the choice, I tend to choose the indoor route.  Some would say that makes me a "wimp"....ok, call me what you want....I hate it when runners denigrate other runners.  While our "community" can be tremendously supportive (particularly those who read and write blogs!), there are plenty of those out there who like to look down on others who aren't as fast/skinny/tough as they are.  I'm a big man who only started running in my late 40's after deciding to fight my way out of a lifetime of obesity.  I'll never be as skinny or as fast as others, but I've run 3 marathons (including the 2012 Boston Marathon), so I'll take anyone on who claims I'm lacking in toughness simply because I choose to occasionally run indoors on a day when others would run outdoors.  "Judge not, lest ye be judged"......

I'm hoping to PR in May, so I've got a long, hard road ahead of me.  This training program is more qualitative than quantitative in nature, and that's going to be a big change from the way I've trained previously.  Adding in speedwork......OMG, I'm going to be doing SPEEDWORK?   Of course, you'll be able to time my repeats with a sundial, but you'd better believe I'll be doing them!

All that said, NOW I'll have every reason I need to blog regularly.....as the schedule kicks in, I know I'll be having LOTS to share.  I've been saying for a long time that I've been needing to start blogging again, so FINALLY, I think I can put that all to rest. 

The schedule begins tomorrow........the end point is on May 26th in Burlington, Vermont.

Wish me luck........and I'll see you all down the road!