Sunday, April 29, 2018

I am the Storm! 2018 Boston Marathon Recap

“Fate whispers to the warrior, `You cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, `I am the storm.’” -Unknown

April 16, 2018 weather: cold, wet, and windy. The course was rain swept and a strong, 30 mph headwind pushed against the runners. The weather was going to be so bad, for the first time in a long time the traditional 11AM Red Sox game was postponed. It was the toughest conditions I ever faced... except for the almost 90 degree day in Boston for my first Boston Marathon in 2012.

Like last year, I flew to Boston Saturday afternoon/night with my son since my wife works on Monday (Patriots Day is only a holiday in Massachusetts and Maine). Having my family live in Massachusetts made this plan work. Miles was great waiting for our flight and on the plane. We shared an ice cream and read and watched Elmo. I still wasn't feeling great - I had food poisoning Wednesday night, felt really ill Thursday, and was still in some pain Friday so I canceled my five mile run. Saturday was the first day my stomach wasn't in pain. I was worried I wouldn't get a good carbo load.

A preflight ice cream cone waiting to board

Miles watching Sesame Street during takeoff

Miles slept on the plane to Boston
My parents met us in Logan and we drove to their home in Foxborough. He went right to bed and I followed shortly later. Sunday morning, I drove my father's car into Boston. Usually the packet pick-up is at the Hynes, but this year it was at the Seaport Convention Center. We had to wait in line outside for the doors to open, and I was spotted by Alex and his wife, a fellow runner from the DC area who met me years ago in Hopkinton waiting for the race to start. He was coming off an injury, but I saw that he ran quite well.

Standing on the finish line

A view of the finish line
I didn't linger at the expo since it was $14 for the first hour to park and didn't want to pay for a second hour. I met with my coach, Ryan Vail, for coffee at his hotel near the finish. Amazingly, I found street parking (free on Sunday) walking distance from where we met. It was my first time meeting him in person. On the way to see him, I took a few pictures at the finish line, something I had not done in the past. He hoped to have a good race and we talked strategy and family. I presented him with my club's singlet.

A picture with my coach, Ryan Vail
A picture with my coach, Ryan Vail

Memorial to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing victims
Memorial to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing victims
On the way back to my car, I stopped to pay respect at the memorial for the bombing victims. I drove to my folks' home, we waited for Miles to wake up from his nap, then we took him to his cousin, James, birthday party at Launch in Norwood on Route 1. It is a trampoline park. Miles didn't jump, but we got some great pictures with his cousins. Then, my niece and his cousin Molly came back to my folks' house to play. My brother came with his son, Evan. A few friends and relatives dropped by to see Miles, we had our pasta dinner, and I prepared for the race.
Carbo-loading with my boy!
Miles and Daddy enjoy a pre race pasta meal

With Dave and his dad, Larry, one of my first coaches
Dave Gaffin came to pasta dinner

Patriots Day: Race Day

Because last year they closed the road from 495 into Hopkinton, my dad insisted we leave early this time. Luckily, the roads were not yet closed and I was at the athlete's village by 6:45 AM. I was one of the first runners to arrive. As I entered, they made me dispose of a clear plastic bag because it wasn't the approved plastic bag. I had my socks, GUs, and Vaseline in the approved plastic bag. My shoes were wrapped in another clear plastic bag, which they let me bring in. My brother gave me hand warmers, so I gave the volunteers some of the extras, which they appreciated. After I entered, I found a pole that hadn't been claimed yet, tossed my heat blanket I had wrapped around me when I crossed the finish line of the Rock N Roll DC Marathon on the wet ground, and waited. To stay warm, I had an old jacket from my father, two old sweatshirts from my mom, and warm up pants. I had old shoes and shoes that I was ready to ditch. It was enough to barely stay warm.

Fellow DC Road Runner Joe Kane

Joe from my running club found me sitting against a pole, and we killed time swapping running PRs, expectations for the race, and our future race calendars. The rain pounded outside - ice swept off the top of the tent and hurdled to the ground - and the wind was loud and steady. We chatted with a few other runners. Before it was time to exit the athlete's village, I ditched my old shoes and socks, put on my race shoes, and wrapped my feet in plastic bags to stay dry until the race. I walked in those plastic bags over a kilometer to the start line. Ten minutes before the start, I found Derek. Our plan was to pace each other like we had the previous Boston Marathons.

Miles 1-4 = 7:08; 6:56; 6:57; 6:50
The first half of the race didn't feel that great to me. The rain and wind was demoralizing early and often; it was too crowded (as always) to find my pace, so instead of worrying about pace, I settled into feel. I was only able to keep Derek in sight for the first few miles; he was gone after that fourth mile. Unlike in past races, I let him go and stuck to my own sense of what I could accomplish. I wasn't going to chase after him again.

Miles 5-8 = 7:08; 7:07; 7:06; 7:16
No matter how many people there were around me, I just could not find a group to draft off of - it was as if I was an island in the middle of a storm. Sure, I was never by myself, but I was never really with any group. There always seemed to be a gaggle of runners ahead and behind me and a few runners sprinkled in between the two. I didn't want to burn energy to catch and keep up with the front group; and I didn't want to slow to let myself be caught. I remember in Framingham remarking to another runner how utterly alone it felt. Perhaps that was also due to the fact that there were very few spectators, for Boston's standards. I don't blame them.

Miles 9-11 = 7:13; 7:17; 7:20
The rain and wind really was hitting me hard. Mentally, it wasn't enjoyable. I was in a bad mood at this point and thought, "Yet another Boston Marathon I won't be able to run a good race." "I will have to wait another year to try again." "I'm sure glad I ran Rock N Roll DC five weeks ago and broke three hours there rather than putting my eggs in the Boston basket again." This was my sixth Boston, and I felt like I just couldn't catch a break. My first Boston in 2012 was nearly 90 degrees (4:07); 2013 was decent weather but I ran out too fast (3:19); and I have had warm weather since (2014 = 3:29; 2016 = 3:17; 2017 = 3:15). When I started dipping into 7:20, I thought my race was ending, that I would end up in the 3:20s. At one point, I considered dropped out, briefly, before remembering I had to get to Boston and then to the airport to meet my parents to get my son and fly home. Dropping out would complicate my trip home.

Miles 12-13 = 7:16; 7:14
I think my race started to change as I approached Wellesley College and their famed "scream tunnel." I high-fived a few of the coeds and even a cop. I noticed how few of them there were compared to past years. But, when they were behind me, I felt better. Maybe it was the cheering, the encouragement, or maybe I just had enough of the moping and self-pity. I hit the halfway point and something happened - I stopped feeling bad and realized I had hit the half in 1:33:53 and was on pace for a sub 3:10. I knew that I was still on pace to BQ (my qualifying time is now 3:15) with room to spare. I took stock of my body and noted that my legs were strong, my form was intact, and suddenly I had a boost of confidence. I remembered my race plan: don't go out too fast (check), find my rhythm (check), get to the halfway point in respectable time (check) - and what lay ahead of me: take the Newton hills as they come and don't overexert myself, get to the top of Heartbreak Hill in good shape, and then race the final five miles or so. Now, it was time to execute the second half of my plan.

Miles 14-16 = 7:05; 7:08; 6:51
I felt really good from the half until the first of the four Newton Hills. I started to get excited and dialed in a few mental tricks. First, I remembered my email signature “Fate whispers to the warrior, `You cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, `I am the storm.’” And I told myself over and over again that I am the storm! I even said it aloud to a fellow runner. And as I did that, my legs turned over faster, my mood was lifted, and I tuned into two songs in my mind: Portugal. The Man. Feel it Still for no real reason than I think I heard it on the radio that morning and repeated that I was never going to give up and never going to let you down - that's right, I was Rick Rolling!

Miles 17-18 = 7:19; 7:17
I handled the first two hills pretty well. The crowds, while thinner than normal, propelled me forward. I stayed within myself and thought of past years on these hills - all of which have blended together - and knew I was running these better than my previous five attempts.

Mile 19 = 6:55
That was a big downhill and around this point a spectator shouted that Desi Linden had won! I didn't know it then, but she had pulled herself from a bad mental place to a great second half, just as I was doing.

Miles 20-21 = 7:13; 7:47
I nailed Heartbreak Hill! As I climbed up the last two hills, a female runner was struggling while I felt pretty good. I tried to encourage her and told her Desi had won. After I summited Heartbreak, I was amazed that my legs felt so good. I couldn't believe I still had my legs after Heartbreak! I suppose I didn't trash them early in the race like so many others do in the opening miles down those early hills. And then, I said, five miles to the finish - let's race!

Miles 22-25 = 6:57; 7:05; 7:07; 7:13
I was racing again - damn the storm, full speed ahead! Never before had I been able to race the last few miles at Boston. Not only was I strong and running and sticking to my plan, I was passing roadkill along the way and that lifted my spirits higher. I was looking for Derek as I expected I would pass him. That gave me extra motivation - to track him down and pass him as he had placed ahead of me at every single Boston we raced together. Not this year I told myself!
A friend watching me finish
Mile 26 and final stretch = 7:29; 7:08 (.34)
My 25th mile was when I started to tighten up and slow. I lost my 3:07 because I couldn't run a sub 7. But, with a mile to go, I had 7:30 or so to get in under 3:09, so I got to work. With about 1K to go, I think I had 5 minutes to register a 3:08. And, soon, it was right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and sprint straight for the finish. I put down a 7:10 for my final mile, which got my my new course personal record of 3:08:36 and my first time qualifying for Boston at Boston. It was an amazing feeling... that quick faded when I stopped running because it was wet and cold and windy and I started to shiver and ache.

I limped a few blocks to my friend's hotel where he arranged for me to get in and use his shower. I had dry clothes there that I had given him the day before. I ran solidly and was very pleased with my race. On the T ride to the airport, there were a few other runners and some gave congrats. The exchange of my son at the airport went fine. We sat down at Boston Beer Works in the JetBlue terminal. A lady gave us her table so we could eat and she took a seat at the bar. I bought her a beer for her kindness. Miles and I shared a veggie burger and fries, and I enjoyed a beer while Miles enjoyed his sippy cup. The flight was delayed an hour due to the weather and he made me chase him all over the waiting area. Joe Kennedy, the current Congressman for my hometown, was on our flight. He came to say hi and I told him my son's hair was as red as his. After a long weekend, I was happy to finally get home. It was a successful trip and next year I hope that the weather for Boston will be perfect!

My splits
Flying home. Miles reads the safety pamphlet.
Sammy wears my medal.

I had a friend live text while he watched the race. He referred to me as The Storm in these texts. It was informative to read these after the race:

Weird to see elite runners in long sleeves and winter hats.

Jordan Hasay, Salazar runner, decided not to run.

Conservative first 5K for you. I wonder how the weather is affecting everyone. 

Shalane had to make a portapotty stop but caught back up to the lead group.

Vail predicted finish of 2:12; leader is running a 2:10 pace.

Elite women are running a 2:39 pace. Must be misery out there.

Vail now predicted at 2:15; leader at 2:12. Rupp still in lead pack.

Ethiopian woman goes out to 45 second lead over Flanagan and rest of pack.

Judging by the elite times, this is going to be a slow race.

Elites still wearing their jackets and hats.

Yuki pulls away from lead men!

Vail fading, now at 2:17 pace.

Shalane and Rupp fading.

Kenyan back in charge.

The Storm less than 2 minutes back of Derek.

Vail predicted at 2:21; Rupp 2:15.

American Des Linden in front of the women's race now.

Linden putting the hammer down; gonna be first American winner since 1985.

The Storm gaining at 25K, running 7:08 pace.

Derek has given up the ghost. 7:56 pace at 25K.

Galen Rupp drops out, rumor.

Total downpour. Linden coming to the line! Yuki making it a race.

Nice to see the crowds still came out.

Yuki comes from behind!

Kenan Kirui bonked big time.

It's Yuki in in 2:16. He ran 12 marathons last year and this is his fourth in 2018.

Storm makes his move! Storm still running strong at 7:12.

Linden had slowed to help Flanagan get back in the race after Flanagan's potty break. Great sportsmanship!

Vail and Rupp both appear to have dropped out.

American women make up 7 of top 10, Flanagan in 6th.

Six American men in top 10, top is 3rd place Shadrack Biwott.

Storm still fighting at mile 21, 7:48 pace.

Storm is over Heartbreak and flying again, 6:56 pace to 35K! Derek at 7:57.

Last mile, bring it! BQ at BM!

STORM!!! STORM! STORM! Nice run in the adverse conditions!

Derek 3:16.

Final thoughts

I am very pleased to run another BQ in such tough conditions. This was my first BQ at Boston. I hope to never have to run in such terrible conditions again, but I will tell the story for a long time (of course, I'll take this over heat). I suspect my stroller runs and running to work with a backpack helped in my training. Of course, now I wonder how fast I could have run this year if the weather was perfect. This is my fourth BQ in a row and the best stretch of marathon racing in my career. I hope to keep the streak going as in June I'm registered for Deadwood in South Dakota and this fall I'm in for the New York City Marathon.

Splits: 7:08; 6:56; 6:57; 6:50; 7:08; 7:07; 7:06; 7:16; 7:13; 7:17; 7:20; 7:16; 7:14; 7:05; 7:08; 6:51; 7:19; 7:17; 6:55; 713; 7:47; 6:57; 7:05; 7:07; 7:13; 7:29; 7:08 (.34).

5k = 0:21:44; 10k = 0:43:49; 15k = 1:06:16; 20k = 1:29:07; Half = 1:33:53; 25k = 1:51:10; 30k = 2:13:32; 35k = 2:36:19; 40k = 2:58:33; Finish = 3:08:36; Pace = 7:12

Overall = 3070 (I beat my bib!); Gender = 2847; Division = 423

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Rock N Roll DC Marathon - My second sub 3!

I always feel a sense of joy when I can write that the latest marathon was my best one to date. That is certainly true of yesterday's Rock N Roll DC Marathon (the old National Marathon). Training mostly by running my son in a Bob's Ironman stroller to and from daycare or with a backpack to and from my new office in Bethesda, I wasn't really sure about my fitness. However, the added miles seemed to pay off as I was able to hold my marathon pace, stick to the plan, and run a smart race - good for my second sub-3 marathon, just one tiny second off my PR set two years ago on the pancake-flat course that is the Houston Marathon.

My training routine became 2-3 week days I would run with my backpack to Bethesda cutting across DC on Irving by the Hospital Center through Columbia Heights, down Klingle and up Porter then straight up Connecticut Avenue to East West Highway where my gym was right across from my office. The other 2-3 days I would run Miles to daycare then Metro to Bethesda. It is the only way I can get in my run now, and it gives me the ability to really get in a lot of mileage. Some days I could get 14-18 miles, and really the lowest I would get would be 9-10. Almost every day is a double. On the weekends during the winter it is too cold to take him in the morning for a run, so I have been running during nap time. On Saturday, I was likely able to get in 90-120 minutes with Shawn. And those Saturday runs we usually doing some sort of speed or tempo work. For example, three weeks before the race, we ran 16 miles at tempo with a short warm up. That gave us the confidence to know we were ready for the marathon. On Sunday, I would get in 60-90 minutes, usually easy miles.

My race day gear

On race morning, it was a cold but perfect 30 degrees with sun. Usually, I like 40-50, but I prefer cold to hot. There wasn't too much wind - we were generally happy with the weather. Alex met us at my house and Shawn's wife drove us to the start. We timed it well as we didn't have to wait outside too long before the start. We hit the bathroom, checked bags, and went to the start where we did our warm up. I had a few throw-away clothes to stay warm for the first few miles. Mile one was crowded and we were able to stick together and to the plan. Mile two was a little better and we were running well as a team. Mile three and four we continued with our pace and in formation, but as we hit Rock Creek Park, Shawn began to put a few seconds between us. I tapped Alex on the arm to indicate stay back since we were doing fine. We climbed Calvert and lost 20-25 seconds, but we knew that we would. Over the next three miles, we back it back and established our pace again as we went through AdMo and Columbia Heights, up Harvard, down passed the reservoir and Howard University. As we hit North Capitol, Alex and I felt good and the plan was intact. We turned onto K Street and passed the former CQ Roll Call building where I worked with Shawn and Kate. Kate and their kids were out and I handed her my Red Sox beanie since I didn't need to wear it anymore but didn't want to throw it away. We ran by H Street and saw Adam Siple, my friend from GW and a fellow Bay Stater and runner. I was with Alex through the mile twelve marker but then I felt good and had some wind at my back and a slight downhill so I thought about catching Shawn. I sped up, leaving Alex, and hit the halfway point on East Capitol in 1:29:28.

Can you see Alex and me on the right?

Mentally, I was in a great place and my body also felt pretty strong. Right by the mile fourteen marker, I caught Shawn and we stayed together - for the next 2-3 miles. Within a mile of catching Shawn, we passed a water stand. I tried to grab two cups and hand one to Shawn, but he didn't want it. He didn't drink any liquids in the race. Before the mile sixteen marker, I had left Shawn a few seconds behind. At 17, he was further behind - he was holding a great pace but I had dropped mine slightly and was feeding off positive thoughts (I felt good, I figured I had an hour or so to go and knew I could hold this pace) - I really felt like sub 3 was going to happen no doubt and a PR or 2:57-2:58 was possible. I was able to hold this mindset through Anacostia Park and passed mile 21 ready to tackle the Fort DuPont hills.

Alex and I climbing Calvert with Christie on our tail

Looking at the course elevation, I knew this section was going to be challenging. Pre-race, I was prepared to lose a minute on Calvert and a minute in Fort DuPont. I didn't try to tackle the hill, just survive. As I was climbing, my left hip flexor started hurting. I figured it was just the hill and in the back of my mind wondered if it would end my race. That was a tiny thought that went away after the hill and my hip stopped hurting. It never was pain, so that was good. With about 5K left, I had 22-23 minutes to get under 3. I hoped I could get that 2:58, but there was another climb up Minnesota before a slight downhill on the straight away to RFK. But, at the 40K mark, a strong wind blew me back - wind tunnel! That took away my ability to find a 6:45 pace that could have gotten me 2:58. But, with my 2:59 safe in hand, I was able to finish strong and respectfully. In fact, I was only one second off my PR. Had I realized I probably would have tried to sprint to get under my PR. But, I don't feel regret since I know I gave it all I had.

At night, Shawn, Alex, and I drank a few beers at the new Tastemakers in Northeast DC and had their famous ice cream sandwich (two of their cookies with two scoops of ice cream in the middle) and recapped the race. Shawn should have stayed with us and drank water and taken more than two Gu. Alex said, "Great race! Those mile splits are a thing of beauty - a perfect race on a tough course!" And, I congratulated all of us on PRs and a well run race. Now, time to recover so I can try to run strong in Boston in five weeks!

DC Road Runners Club Members smile with new PRs and a great race!

2nd Place Age Group 40-44 (Shawn won 3rd) out of 145
33rd place overall out of 1882
31st male finisher out of 1152

My splits:

6:54; 6:42; 6:49; 6:42; 6:49; 6:50; 7:11; 6:39; 6:33; 6:29; 6:44; 6:48; 6:33; 6:21; 6:44; 6:51; 6:36; 6:41; 6:48; 6:52; 6:52; 7:28; 7:02; 6:33; 7:07; 6:53 (.48) = 2:59:32 for an average pace of 6:51.

First 10K = 42:35 Pace = 6:52
6.9 miles to the 1/2 = 46:52 Pace = 6:47
6.9 miles to 20 mile mark = 46:18 Pace = 6:42
Final 10K to Finish = 43:52 Pace = 7:04

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017: A Year in Review

2017 was another good year for running. It was not without challenges and sacrifices. But, with a little ingenuity, I was able to run more miles in a calendar year than any previous year. Here is my recap of running in 2017 by numbers and pictures:

Total miles (bicycle and running) = 4911 / 628 total hours of exercise
Running = 3614 (previous high in 2016 was 3181). I climbed 99,984 feet while running.
Bicycle = 1287. I climbed 36,752 feet while bicycling.
New places I ran = Destin and Seacrest, Florida (Jan); Boca Raton and Deerfield Beach, FL (June); Rehoboth Beach, DE (Aug); Hartford, CT (Oct); and Los Angeles (Nov).

LA running

Running through LA

View of LA while running Elysian Park

Prior to the Rock N Roll Half in DC

Flying to Boston for the marathon!

With my friend Derek pre Boston Marathon

After the Boston Marathon with my family

Pre Maine Coast Marathon

With my dad before the Maine Coast Marathon

First stroller run with Miles

Miles on a run to the National Zoo

With Miles at the National Cathedral

Family vacation at Rehoboth Beach

Miles naps on a run to Rock Creek

I ran fewer races this year than in past years. That was one of the sacrifices I made this year with a young child.
January 7 - Al Lewis Ten Miler - 1:04:46 (was supposed to run Mississippi Blues)
February 26 - RRCA Club Challenge 10 Miler - 1:03:59
March 11 - Rock N Roll USA Half Marathon 1:24:28
April 17 - Boston Marathon 3:15:57
May 14 - Maine Coast Marathon 3:08:43 during a rainy and windy day with an added half mile
August 27 - Annapolis Ten Miler 1:04:23 on a notoriously hilly course but we had good weather
September 27 - Navy Air Force Half Marathon 1:28:46 on a very hot and humid day
October 14 - Hartford Marathon 3:01:41 on a warm day 60s good for my third fastest marathon and fastest marathon east of the Mississippi River

How did I get in my miles (with Miles) this year? Last winter and spring, I started running with a backpack from near Fort Totten where Miles was part of a nanny share to Gallery Place/Penn Quarter where I worked. My routine was to drive our car to the nanny share, park in the other family's driveway, drop off Miles, then run about 10K to work. That routine changed in May when I changed jobs. In May, Miles was big enough to sit in the Bob's Ironman stroller and we enrolled him in a daycare located near the Mall. When he transitioned at the beginning of June, I was running him to and from daycare two or three days a week. Most days I would run him five miles from my house to daycare, then five miles home to shower, then took a bike share from home to DuPont - just over four miles. At the end of the day, I would take a bicycle about three miles to his daycare then run him home. Some days, instead of running home, I would run with a backpack to work or run around the Mall then bicycle to my office in DuPont. This led to an increase in mileage this year since on a couple of days a week, I was running doubles.

I did suffer one injury (I suspect from running with the heavy backpack) that caused some right knee pain. I was able to treat it with massages and it didn't cost me much time off my feet. But, it was painful at night or waking up at times. Also, I helped my running partner train and qualify for Boston for the first time and set PR in every other distance he ran.

Let's hope 2018 is another great running year!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

40 for 40: A well-paced race in Hartford

What I love most about the marathon is that when you step to the starting line, there are so many possibilities. Will this be a day when everything goes according to plan? Or will things fall apart? The only way to find the answer is to run the race. The further you run, the more the result starts to come into focus. As the finish line approaches, the possibilities are narrowed. At the start, you have your A, B, and C goals; yet it isn’t until you’re running the last mile and only a few possibilities remain that you know which goal will come true.
Run/commute to daycare past the Capitol on his birthday

This was another great race for me. I knew that I was in good shape heading into the Hartford Marathon. I nailed all my key workouts leading up to the race. I had a great race at the Annapolis Ten Miler (64:23) which is a hilly course, but we got some unseasonably cool weather for late August. I had an acceptable result at the Navy Air Force Half Marathon (1:28:46) on a warm day in which everyone I knew seemed to struggle. And while I did accumulate a lot of mileage (I exceeded 100 miles for a seven-day period for the first time ever), I had a proper taper and carbo-load leading up to race day. Plus, this is the first marathon where I trained with the Bob's Ironman stroller. In fact, I logged a lot of miles with Miles (possibly as many as half), so I was curious to see how that training would prepare me. All signs pointed to a chance to break my PR. Then, my coach, Ryan Vail, and I looked at the predicted weather.

Our shadow as we run through the National Zoo on a weekend run
Ideal race weather for me is overcast and in the 40s to start. I like to be shivering when the gun goes off – I had ideal conditions in Bismarck in 2015 (3:00:58) and Houston in 2016 (2:59:31). But, I have not had ideal conditions since. The weather for race morning called for 60 degrees to start at 8 AM rising to 71 by my expected finish time around 11 AM. I talked with my coach Ryan in the days leading up to the race. Knowing I am a cold weather racer, we ditched any thought of breaking 3 and put in 6:55-7:05 for my targeted pace. With ideal conditions, I would have tried to hold 6:45-6:55. Yet, the day before the race, they adjusted the prediction to 58 at the start to mid-to-high 60s at my expected finish. I asked him if he saw the updated temperature to which he replied that it has become a little cooler. I asked if that adjusts the strategy and he advised that it is still likely to be mostly cloudy but to run conservative on the faster end of what we had discussed. “Go out closer to the 6:55 range than 7:05. Start 6:55ish and make a judgment call after a few miles. You’ll know by then if you feel warm early on.”

With Andrew at the expo. Bib #255 for Billy (wore #55)

When I arrived Friday morning in Hartford, the temperature was in the 40s rising to the 50s by 11 AM. I missed perfect weather by one day, again! My cousin Andrew picked me up at the airport and we found a tea house in downtown Hartford near the XL Center where they held the expo. They opened at 11AM (not sure why so late – there was a line of people waiting to get in). I already had my bib since I requested a variant of #55 (they gave me #255) in memory of my cousin, Billy Goldstein, who passed away last month after a battle with cancer. I raised almost $500 dollars through the race’s charity in his memory and dedicated the race to him. At the expo, we breezed through, I picked up my start seeding sticker, got my shirt, and was ready to go. Andrew found that there is a lot of free stuff given away and took a shopping bag that a vendor handed out and stuffed it with free goodies to bring home to his kids. He spent a good twenty minutes at a headband stand looking for one that said something about dance since his daughters are dancers. As we were about to give up, he found it. He commented that it looked like an anorexia convention. For lunch, we stopped in Wallingford, where Billy had lived. His folks Nate and Iris, who passed young in the late 90s, hosted Thanksgiving every year and he kept that tradition going for years. We ate pizza and a calzone at Carini’s which Uncle Nate used to love. Then, we went to the cemetery where Billy was buried and placed a stone. I did some work that afternoon while he did a few errands and I rested. For dinner, the kids were all out so Andrew, his wife Kelly, and I ate pasta. Andrew and I watched a few innings of the ALCS against the Houston Astros – thankfully, the Yankees lost – before bed.

Spending time in the expo at a vendor's booth

In the morning, Andrew, his daughter Hannah, and I drove to the race. We parked about a half mile walk from the start in a lot. I did my pre-race stretches, took a few pictures with my support team, and headed to the start. I initially went to the start of the 5K which had a different start than the full and half marathons. I met a fellow runner, Mario Vazquez, 38 years old from New Britain, Connecticut. This was his first full, but he has run the half in 1:14. His goal was to break 3 hours. We talked prior to the race – I advised him to go out slow and respect the distance and he should have a sub 3 easy – then we found our way to the proper start. When the race began, I settled into a comfortable pace and tried not to go out too fast. Even though my first few miles were in the 6:40s, I was getting into the flow. I pulled back to stay with the planned pace of 6:55. There were fellow runners around me who were settling into their paces and we chatted about expected pace, thoughts on the weather, experience running Boston, and even music selection (a runner near us had his player blasting for all to hear – I asked if it was preset or if he would take requests). I remember two guys named Matt and Mike and we ran probably 6-7 miles together. Around mile 5, I made the decision to stick to 6:55-7 since it felt a bit too warm. Mike and Matt wanted to hold a 7 and hoped to break 3:05. Around mile 7, there was a spectator dad walking his stroller up a rugged hill as we passed by the banks of the Connecticut River with his baby inside. I shouted that we had his back and Mike yelled that we wouldn’t tell mom. We discussed running as fathers, and we listed the states we had run. Around mile 9, I felt myself breaking away from them. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. They are strangers and I have my own race to run.

With Hannah and Andrew right before the start

Once I hit the ten-mile mark, I was feeling pretty good and confident as I crossed the marker at around 70 minutes, right on pace for a 7-minute mile. The next seven miles were very consistent right around a 6:53 pace. The weather felt cooler so I focused on my breathing, looked at the road and runners ahead, and kept my rhythm going. I remember seeing Congressman John Larson (D-CT) spectating the course sometime after the half. As I passed, I said, "Good morning, Congressman. I used to work for Barney and Steny." He said good to see you or something like that - I couldn't make it out. At mile 14, we took a right and began the out and back section of the race. I thought if I could get to 17 then I would have nine miles to go and roughly an hour to finish. I think I hit the turnaround at 17 in 1:58 and change. Feeling good, I dropped my pace to 6:40 and started to pass quite a few runners. My plan was to get to 20 and assess. Somewhere before the 20-mile mark, I passed Mario who looked like he was suffering. According to the results, he went out for the first ten miles in a 5:42 pace, was down to 5:57 by the half, 6:43 at 20, and finished in a 7:20 average pace in just under 3:12. I guess he didn’t head my advice.

When I passed the 20th mile marker, my pace dipped back in the 6:50 range as I ran over a few rolling hills. I still had a few runners ahead of me, so I tried to focus on the one in front of me and catch them then the next one. With about 5K to go, my pace slipped over the 7-minute, and with two miles to go, I knew I was hurting. I kept telling myself it was almost over and knew I was in 3:01 or 3:02 range. If I could hit the 25th mile marker still in decent shape, I had about 8-9 minutes left, depending how badly I wanted the 3:01. With half a mile to go, I saw that I had one female runner ahead of me so I started my final kick, passed her with half a kilometer to go, and held it to the finish line. I was so focused on finishing that I didn’t realize the line was underneath the arch that is on the medal!

Connecticut State House

I was very pleased with my effort! This was my first marathon in the masters division, so a new age group PR; my fastest marathon east of the Mississippi; my 11th time qualifying for Boston (this one is good for 2019); my 40th marathon in my 26th different state; my fifth New England state (soon, New Hampshire, soon); and I can use this time to better my seeding in Boston for 2018 (currently submitted a 3:08 time, but this puts me clearly in the first wave whereas I might have been on the cusp of the second wave). Plus, I laid down the hammer at the end and accomplished the rare negative split (1:31:19 first; 1:30:22 second which is 57 seconds faster).

I met up with Andrew and Hannah and we left. I called Laura to share my excitement and tell her I was headed home. The plan was to drive to the downtown YMCA for a shower, but I forgot a towel and the traffic closures prevented us from getting there. Rather than risk it, I told him to take me to the airport. We said goodbyes and I basically walked through security stinky and wet. At least my TSA pre-check cleared on Friday so I was able to walk right through without taking off my shoes. I briefly talked with my coach, hopped into the bathroom to sink-wash myself, then found the bar for a beer and a snack. I wasn’t hungry, so I only ate some pretzel bites. The IPA was terrific! On the flight back, I shared a seat next to a woman who ran the half and has finished 45 states on her goal to 50 half marathons, one in each state.

Running marathons is addicting for me. I know I ran the best race possible on race day. Sure, there is always the what-if (what-if the weather was perfect or I had tried to break 3), but I am confident I ran the right race. I think I am getting better at these the older I get – I wish I could have learned some of these lessons earlier in my racing career.

At the airport enjoying a celebratory beer

My splits: 6:46/41/51/7:01/6:55/54/56/7:07/6:58/49/53/53/47/53/55/53/57/40/43/40/53/50/53/59/ 7:07/01/ 2:40 (6:16 pace) final .4
10K = 43:05 (6:56 pace)
Half = 1:31:19 (6:59)
17 Mile = 1:58:34 (6:59)
20 Mile = 2:18:28 (6:56)
25.1 Mile = 2:54:10 (6:57)
Finish = 3:01:41 (6:57)
58th Overall of 1618; 46th Male of 934; 5th M40-44 of 149; 13th Masters of 527.

Beer and metal

After the race, here is what I posted on Facebook:

3:01 at the Hartford Marathon this morning. Third fastest time overall in slightly warmer than ideal conditions. Very pleased with my effort, negative split (hit the half at 1:31:19), and another BQ. Thanks to the Casmans (Andrew and Hannah) for serving as my support crew and to my awesome wife Laura and my training buddy Miles who sits in the Bob jogging stroller so I can get in my training runs. And thanks to my coach Ryan Vail. 40th marathon and 26th state. Also, I ran this race in memory of my cousin Billy Goldstein who passed away from cancer last month. I also had a bump on the top of my left foot causing some discomfort. It wasn't pain, but I could feel it when I walked. Oddly, it didn't hurt during the race. After the race, I pushed down on the bump and it snapped back into place and the discomfort went away, for now. Interesting.

A few comments from fellow runners on Facebook

Karsten Brown: “A negative split like that is the sign of somebody who knows what he's doing. Great job!”

Keith Freeburn: “Great job out there! I need your patience. I've never come close to negative splitting a Marathon. Karsten is correct. A definite sign of a runner that knew what he was doing.”