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!