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.”

Monday, May 29, 2017

Maine Coast Marathon Recap - Wet, Windy, and Half a Mile Long

This marathon served a lot of milestones for me. It was the first marathon I ran in a nor'easter. It was the second marathon I ran past property owned by the Bush Family (Houston and Kennebunkport). It was the first time I ran a marathon with a gaping course error. And, it was my 39th marathon in my 25th different state which means I am halfway to my goal of a marathon in every state. Plus, it was my final marathon in my 30s. I turn 40 in July and my next marathon would be my 40th.

The weekend began with Laura, Miles, and me flying from BWI to Logan. We rented a car and then drove about an hour to Matt's house in Groveland. I hadn't visited his home before, so it was good to see him. He had lunch ready for us, a pack n play and a bumbo to borrow for Miles, and he bought baby food too. We spent about an hour before we finished the drive to Kennebunk, Maine. I was surprised that it was such a quick drive.

The Ames Family in downtown Kennebunkport

We stayed at the Elizabeth Rose right by the Kennebunk High School which served as the start line. The innkeepers were very friendly. We had the entire B&B to ourselves. We settled in before heading into town to walk around. Kennebunkport is a cute town. We went to several stores and took a drive to the Bush Family compound. The weather was perfect for running - too bad it wasn't race day. For dinner, I grabbed takeout from Federal Jack's which sits atop the Shipyard Brewing Company.

The Bush Family Compound in the background.

Saturday morning, we had a large breakfast provided at the inn. We went to walk around the town. Laura picked out a hooded sweatshirt that I bought for her as a gift for her first Mother's Day. We got pizza in the center of Kennebunk and went back to the inn to rest. The innkeepers, Betsy and Paul, are both from Massachusetts originally. We learned their family history of how they came to be in Maine, their four kids and numerous grand-kids, and that they have been married over 50 years. Betsy's first husband died in a canoe accident when she was months pregnant with their third child and Paul raised them as his. I played with Miles in the main room while Laura rested - that's when Betsy told me their story. As I was waiting for my folks, another runner, Mike, and his pregnant wife arrived. This was his first marathon and he was hoping for 2:55-3:00 (he ran 2:54). I gave him some advice as a seasoned marathon runner.

Waiting for me outside packet pick-up at University of New England, Biddeford
Before my parents joined us, we took a quick trip to the finish line which was also where the expo was held. I was worried they might cancel the race, but I was the only one thinking that. I guess since Mississippi Blues Marathon was canceled while I was on my way there and stuck in Chicago, I have become a tad sensitive to a race cancellation. The expo was a quick in-and-out; nothing like Boston or NYC. Back at the inn, I waited for my folks to arrive. Once they made it to the inn, they settled in before we took a drive. We had time to go for a drive to the Bush Compound and then to dinner at Ports of Italy in the center of Kennebunkport. Dinner was nice and there was plenty for me to eat. After, we walked to get ice cream where there were several runners with the same idea. We beat the rush then ate on the patio.

When we got to the room to go down for the night, Miles had trouble going to bed and staying asleep. He doesn't sleep well in new locations, apparently. In the morning, I got up early, prepared in the bathroom so I wouldn't wake Laura and Miles, and went to the kitchen to eat breakfast. Dad and Paul were down there, and after eating, Dad took me to the start line. The rain was light at first, but I knew it was going to pick up. Luckily, I had VIP access so Dad could park near the high school and he came inside to wait with me. I ran into a fellow running buddy, Andrew, who I met at the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville. I have met a number of runners and kept in touch.

Dad watched and filmed the start of the race and then got in his car and went to the finish line where I had secured VIP parking close to the finish. As for my race, with the wind and heavy rain, I made a lot of good decisions that day. First, I wore an Under Armor shirt under my club's singlet, which kept me warm. I also wore arm sleeves my coach sent, gloves, and a hat. I wore regular long sleeve cotton shirt (I think a Cherry Blossom Ten Miler shirt I got as a volunteer) for the first few miles before ditching it. I also ran with a pack of runners targeting my finish time. And, I quickly tossed out my sub 3 goal and aimed for 3:05. I did a good job of staying with the pack. There was a lot of chatter early on as we did two loops near the beach, including mile 11 by the Bush Compound. The race went wrong for many people right at mile 12. A paid volunteer directed many of us down a dead end road that wasn't part of the course. Here is the race's official video of me running. It added half a mile, and a lot of people were really upset going by the comments on the race's Facebook page. The race posted this apology:

"We want to sincerely apologize for an error that was made on the marathon race course today. During the race, we learned of runners being taken off course by a volunteer. At approximately mile 12, runners were turned off course down a dead end road where they then turned around and ran back onto the course. Unfortunately this added about 0.5 miles to the course. We believe about half of the field of the field of runners ran a total of 26.7 miles. The error was corrected as soon as we discovered the problem. The course is still considered a Boston Qualifier even with the added mileage, and those who ran a qualifying time are still valid results. If you missed your qualifying time because the course was long we sincerely apologize. We're extremely sorry for those trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon that did not. As fellow runners, we know that nothing will be able to make up for a lost chance like that."

I even thought that the directions to go down were not right. My watch almost had me at mile 12 and she was standing in front of the mile 12 marker. But, when I asked her if she was sure, she said it with such confidence and everyone else was going there. In retrospect, I could have ignored her and trusted my gut, but if I was wrong then I would have been cutting the course, disobeying a race official, and putting myself in jeopardy of being disqualified. When I got to the end, I could see no cone, so I didn't go all the way to the end. One of the guys I was running with slipped and fell hard as he turned. Fortunately, he was only pacing a friend and not running it all out (he ran 19 miles as part of a Ragnar relay the previous day), and he is a 2:40 marathoner. Plus, he has a 5 month old and we talked about parenting as runners.

Pacing with Jeff

I was running with Jeff who was hoping to qualify for Boston. He is also from DC and lives on H Street but didn't know any of the names I dropped of fellow H Street runners. He was worried that the turn wasn't part of the course, and I convinced him (maybe I was trying to convince myself) that since the course was altered this year due to construction on the UNE campus, that they would make it up to us later and the signs were wrong. Around the halfway point, I felt good and left Jeff to try to catch the Ragnar relay guy and the friend he was pacing. I felt pretty good and was able to reel in runners ahead of me one at a time. I worried that at some point I would bonk, but my pace stayed consistent. When I went to grab my third Gu ahead of the 15th mile, I fumbled my fourth Gu and lost it on the ground. I thought there would be Gu handed out, but it wasn't so I relied on Gatorade.

Running with Jeff

Even as we went up hills and into wind, I was able to hold a very respectable pace. At the 20 mile mark, I had caught Ragnar and we were again running side-by-side. My left thigh started hurting, but I was able to run through the pain. At some point, I dropped him, but his friend was closing in on me. With 5K or so to go, his friend was trying to draft off me. Along the coast, the wind was the worst as it slowed my pace considerably. I was determined not to let him draft off me. Earlier in the race we can take turns and work together, but with the finish line in sight I get competitive and we're all on our own. I remember hitting 26.2 on my watch and being upset that the finish line wasn't in sight. So I ran the extra half mile, finished on a slippery and narrow chute, and saw my dad. He was filming this shaky video. I was pissed because that race could have been a 3:05 or 3:06 if accurate - maybe even a 3:04. I got into the car with my dad and started to change. I was shivering from the rain and from stopping.


7:00/6:51/7:14/7:03/7:24/7:45/7:39/ 7:05 (final .7).
I am pretty sure I ran a negative split. I felt strong at the end. The wall of wind at the end is evident looking at my times as I go from 7:03 to 7:24 to 7:45 and 7:39 before bringing it all together for a 7:05 pace in the 27th mile.

My statistics and placement

I was pleased with myself as that was a terrific effort and I knew it. But, I was upset that I lost out on a better time. Even though I was likely in for Boston 2018 (3:08 should be enough to get me in only needing a 3:15), I want to improve my place in the corral. Having been in the fourth corral in 2017, I want to see how close to the front I can get. I will simply have to wait for the next marathon and opportunity to improve my bib number.

Cousins play with Penny at the Mother's Day / Dad's 65th birthday party

After the race, my parents left and went to my brother's for the Mother's Day celebration / my dad's 65th birthday party. We went to Federal Jack's for lunch and a beer and to celebrate. We then drove to join my family at my brother's and my mom was pleased that all her children and grandchildren were together. A good way to finish the weekend! Monday morning, we got up very early to catch our flight back to DC.

Postscript: I started running with Miles in the Bob's Ironman stroller. He mostly sleeps on the run.

After the race, I took Miles on the MBT for our first run together in the Bob's Ironman stroller

Boston Marathon 2017: The Finish Line Was Only the Midway Point

This year's Boston Marathon was more than just a race for me: it was also my first time traveling alone with Miles. Laura needed to go home to New Jersey that weekend, so I was able to prove that I maneuver the logistics myself. Saturday began with dropping Sammy off at our friends' home near 16th Street around midday, then I drove us up to BWI (a rental van was driving dangerously up 16th Street - I even called the number on the van to report his speeding and hitting the median), parked in the daily lot, folded the stroller to get onto the bus to the terminal, and dragged our luggage with us. I only took a bottle or two of breast milk and would be relying on formula the rest of the way. I was able to get the two of us checked in, through security (collapsing the stroller, putting the car seat through, and walking the two of us through the magnetometer) and got us to our gate in plenty of time. In fact, we sat down at a bar where I fed him a jar of food then fed myself Banza (chickpea pasta) since it was Passover. After eating, I walked us around the terminal several times until it was close to boarding time. Once on the plane, I was able to give Miles his own seat since it wasn't full - I just strapped him into a seat while he remained in his car seat. Once landed at the Providence Airport, we met my folks at baggage check and went back to Foxboro. Thankfully, my folks have a pack n play so I didn't have to travel with that. And, they bought food, diapers, and wipes to save me from packing that too.
Miles and Daddy ready to board the plane to fly to Massachusetts!

Sunday morning, I went for a 20 minute run to Wolamolopoag and back to my folks' home. Dad and I went into Boston to get my packet while Mom and Auntie watched Miles. In Boston, I met up with Derek Bailey at the expo, got my packet, then met my dad. We didn't linger in town. I did buy a hat but nothing else.
With Derek Bailey at the Boston Marathon expo.

We then drove to the Route 128 train station where we practiced the logistics for after the race pick-up. I even went to the platform and "limped" to the car as if I had just run the race. Then, we went to the Wegman's nearby and bought some wine and more Banza for dinner that night. We also stopped by Howie and Cheryl Lampert's and thanked them for lending us the bouncy.
Miles loves his bouncy at Bubbe and Papa's

At dinner, Amanda, Ryan, Auntie, Molly, Drew, and my friend David Gaffin joined my folks and me. The meal was nice and I ate plenty, as usual. After dinner, Miles had a huge poop, but he was able to still pose for nice pictures with Molly and David.
Two redheads (cousins!) and a lion.

For the race morning, I woke up wondering if we're due for good conditions in Boston. Yet again, they were calling for warm temperatures. I talked with my coach and he thought that while it would be 60s during the race, we would get a tailwind that would cool us. That was my plan going into the race- try to aim for 3 or possibly 3:05 if the weather permitted. Dad and I left the house shortly after 6AM, and it was a good thing we did. Usually the off-ramp to the athlete's village at Hopkinton High School doesn't close until 7AM. But for some reason, a state police officer was already at the exit with cones blocking it off by 6:30. We went to the next exit, and it was the same. Dad pulled over just past the exit, I got out of the car to talk to the officer, and he saw my bib and let us back-up and go towards the start line. He didn't know why they ordered it closed so early.

It was great to see my childhood friend, David, and that he got to meet Miles!

Once at the Athlete's Village, I found a bench and laid down. I think I fell asleep. I remember when I woke I met a woman named Elizabeth from Baltimore who was finishing her master's in speech pathology from Marshall University. She had been inspired to get into the field because her friend's brother is non-verbal. I was waiting for PJ and Alex, who were traveling on the buses from Boston. We eventually met up minutes before it was time to head to the start line. I tried to convince Alex and myself that the weather would be perfect, recalling that my coach said while it was 60s, the tail wind would cool us. I think I did convince myself that would be the case. In the start corral, I met with Derek Bailey. We were in the fourth corral as his bib was 3800 and mine 3966. This was the first time I had ever been seeded so far forward. We saw Kevin D'Amanda. After talking and getting the jitters out of our system, the race began.

Dad with Miles watching the Red Sox game on Sunday (Sox won!).

I started strong and felt comfortable. I ran smooth for the first two miles, but I quickly realized that it was warmer than they predicted since I was sweating into the third mile. There, I decided to pull back and aim for 3:05/10 and give up my PR goal. It would turn out to be a wise decision. The course was hot and the longer I ran, the warmer it was. I recall getting passed by Amanda and she asked how I was doing. I replied something like "not great" since I was upset it was another warm Boston Marathon. Then, somehow, she passed me again. I asked how that was possible and she apparently stopped to use a bathroom.

Most of the actual race was kind of a blur. I remember seeing the usual sites and towns. I took water and Gatorade at each stop - in fact, I dumped water on my head every chance I had. When I hit the hills of Newton, I didn't try to speed up, but rather just let them come to me and climbed them calmly and consistently. I know that when I hit the top of Heartbreak and started the decent by BC, I felt pretty strong and decided to see how fast I could hold my pace. I repeated over and over that I could at least hold a 7:30, my normal long run pace. I thought of a family member who was going through some pain and thought that if they could tolerate what they were going through, I could handle this tiny hurt. I remember flying by my father and Molly at Coolidge Corner, same place as last year, and knowing I could finish in a course PR. I thought going under 3:15 might be possible, but as I got closer and realized it was going to be 3:15-16, I just tried to get in under 3:16.

Finishing the marathon was a nice feeling. I had to pick it up at the end to make sure I got in under 3:16, which I did. I can now say that the marathon I have finished the most times is Boston with five. Four straight National Marathons (the predecessor to Rock N Roll USA/DC), three Marine Corps, two NYC, and two Philly.

I also placed higher than my bib, which was a goal. Wearing bib 3966, my overall place was 3848, so I at least accomplished that goal. And, I can never be upset with a course PR, even if I only cut off two minutes. But, it was the warmest day (except for 2012) that I ran Boston, so I am very pleased with my smart race.

My race support team prior to departing for the airport. I gave my mom my 2016 Boston medal.

However, finishing the marathon was only the midway point for me. I had to walk through the finish line chute and get to Back Bay for a 1:48 train (I finished around 1:20 PM). I caught the train and spoke to a nice elderly couple - he had run Boston years ago. On the train, people spoke to me about the race and congratulated me. When the train pulled into the station, I got off (my walk wasn't too sore) then met my dad at 2:08. We drove back to Foxboro quickly where I showered and finished packing. Mom made some leftover chickpea pasta and I loaded the car and Miles into the car. Mom and Dad drove me to the airport where I arrived by 4. There, I checked us in and a bag then took us through security (his car seat, stroller, and a bag) then fed him a jar of food while eating the chickpea pasta with my other hand! We boarded the flight, and he sat on my lap since the flight was full and had a lot of energy. The couple sitting with me was very nice and the wife (they were newlyweds) loved hearing Miles coo and seeing him smile. The woman behind us made faces at him. But, I was exhausted and had to play with him by bouncing him to keep him from getting whiny. I showed him NYC as we flew over and lifted him in the air and tried showing him Sesame Street. I fed him one bottle of formula which satiated him, but at the end of the flight he was getting fussy again. There was a "vial" of formula and I joked that it was only to be opened in case of emergency. With him fussing, I deemed it enough of an emergency to open and feed him. We landed, the shuttle bus took us to our car, and I drove to pick up my dog before walking into my house at 9PM. But I did it!

In retrospect, I talked to my coach who said I came up to the red line without going over; meaning I did a good job of running a consistent pace without exceeding what I could handle and bonking. I still had a good race left in me after the 21st mile, which was my goal.

6:56; 6:48; 6:51; 6:51; 7:01; 7:04; 7:04; 7:15; 7:29; 7:34; 7:42; 7:35; 7:31; 7:30; 7:35; 7:09; 7:58; 8:05; 7:32; 8:12; 8:35; 7:08; 7:23; 7:31; 7:30; 7:34; 7:08 (pace for .37)

Split = Time / Diff
5K = 21:20 / 21:20
10K = 43:12 / 21:52
15K = 1:06:02 / 22:51
20K = 1:29:49 / 23:47
Half = 1:34:55 / 5:07
25K = 1:53:12 / 18:17
30K = 2:17:33 / 24:21
35K = 2:42:30 / 24:57
40K = 3:05:49 / 23:20
Finish Net = 3:15:57 / 10:09

On Wednesday after the race, the New England Patriots came to the White House for their moment with the President then toured the Capitol. In Statuary Hall I said to Edelman "the best sign I saw in the marathon Monday was ATL 28 | NE 3." He said he saw that on Barstool. He asked how I did and I told him 3:15. Then I was about to ask him for a picture and he took a picture next to an Oklahoma statue and was whisked away onto the House Floor, so I didn't get a picture.

Next year, I hope Miles can actually watch me race the marathon and that we get good weather.

In Statuary Hall with some of the 2016 New England Patriots, 5 time Super Bowl Champions!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

3 PRs in One Race!

At today's DC Road Runners Club Gar Williams Half Marathon, I set three personal bests. The temperature and conditions were perfect: 30s partly sunny and a great day for a race! The course was on the C&O Tow Path and is slightly downhill for the first half and slightly uphill for the second half (out and back with a cone turnaround).

With that perfect weather, I have a new PR in 10 miler (unofficially 62:57), the 20K (unofficially 1:18:30) and Half Marathon! (officially 1:22:46 with perfectly even splits = 41:23 first half; 41:23 second half).

Miles = 6:19/17/20/12/16/20/19/22/12/19/26/26/13/ 47s (5:26) .14.
14th overall; 3rd M35-39.

As a bonus, I qualified for the NYC Marathon based on their standards

With four weeks until Mississippi Blues Marathon, I am feeling confident that if the conditions are good, I am in a great place to make a go at it.

Also today, I noticed I have run 3,000 miles for 2016 - the second year in a row reaching this threshold. I still have three weeks to go, so I could get another 150 or so miles.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

First Marathon as a Father: Return to the Marine Corps Marathon

On Sunday, October 30, 2016, I ran my first marathon as a father. My son Miles is two-and-a-half months. This also was my first Marine Corps Marathon in 11 years: my first two marathons were the Marine Corps (2004 in 4:10 and 2005 in 3:29). Earlier this year, I broke 3 hours (2:59:31) in Houston, so I am pleased with how far I have come. Also, one note of my first two marathons: I walked portions of them. So, the Marine Corps Marathon was the only marathon I hadn't ever run the entire way (my first Boston, 2012, was so hot that there were stretches I had to walk, but in subsequent years, I have not walked at all). With my 3:08:31, not only did I finally qualify for Boston in my adopted city of DC, I ran the whole time. Plus, with warm temperatures, this was my best time on a day that didn't provide ideal conditions.

Coach Miles ready to cheer on Daddy! I received my Boston confirmation a week earlier. Sammy is photobombing us.

First, a note about the expo. I rarely comment on the expo, but it was a terrible idea to host at National Harbor. When I went, the traffic was terrible and congested getting into the parking garage. There were long lines of cars trying to exit the freeway and find a spot in the parking garage. The DC Armory and Convention Center seem much more convenient for people - why make us endure going out of our way to get our packet and visit the expo?

Race day started early. Alex picked me up at my house at 5AM and we drove to Shawn's so his wife, Kate, could drop us off at the Reagan Building. From there, we took a bus to the Pentagon, and then walked a good mile to the Netherlands Carillon where the DC Road Runners Club partnered with Hope for the Warriors to host a tent. We relaxed and prepared for the race there. I was a bit worried that I had walked too much prior to the race.

Pre race awful photo due to the lighting
A little better, but not by much.

With a half hour until race time, we trekked down to the start, visited the bathrooms once more, and found our place in the corrals. I was annoyed by the number of people who were toward the front that clearly have no business being that far forward. In Chicago, Alex and I were separated at the start because they accidentally put me in the B rather than the A corral and a gentleman was intent on not hearing my logic. I did sneak into the A corral, but I didn't find Alex. This time, we almost were separated, not by a corral bouncer but just through the large crowds. As we stood waiting for the howitzer, we chatted with Kyle from our running club. We were all hoping for a good race.

The three marathoners prior to the start of the 2016 MCM!

At the start, Alex and I stayed close together most of the way. We had to weave and dodge through a few people that just did not belong so close to the start line. The first few miles through Arlington are quite hilly. I remember thinking that it was more important to hold even effort, not even pace, but I did feel like we were pushing it a little bit.

Running with Alex Albertini in Georgetown

We were able to hold a steady pace as we crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown. I remember thinking as we ran through Georgetown that the pace didn't feel very comfortable. For about a mile, I considered letting Alex go and adjust my goal to 3:10. When we hit the 10K mark on Rock Creek, I wished Alex a good race and told him I was pulling up and changing my goal from 3:05 to 3:10.

A great shot of us running through Georgetown

While I let Alex go, he never really got too far ahead of me. As I ran up and back Rock Creek, he was probably never more than a minute ahead. Shawn cheered for me as he crossed the 10K mark while I was on the other side of the road coming back under the bridge into Georgetown and headed for Hains Point. I remember that his wife and kids greeted me from the steps leading to the Lincoln Memorial and then I was in West Potomac Park.

I joined the 3:05 pace group around Hains Point for the company and to draft.
I was caught by the 3:05 pace group near Hains Point and joined them. They were probably close to thirty strong and helpful for companionship and drafting. I noticed that my pace felt even and I began to feel strong for the first time all race. The idea that I was going to be able to finish sometime between 3:05 and 3:10 seemed plausible as I hung with the pace group. Prior to the new African American History Museum near the Washington Monument, I let them surge ahead as they seemed to be running sub sevens, and I didn't need to go that fast, especially in anticipation of the warmer weather. At the Natural History Museum on my left were my in-laws who cheered excitedly for me. As I looped around the Capitol, Scott Cunningham was cheering with two friends - he later told me they had arrived minutes earlier - and he was surprised that I called out his name. Around the American Indian Museum, I finally caught Alex.

Running along with Alex next to the Mall

I told Alex that we were in great shape and that all we had to do was hold this pace and we'd be in under 3:10 with lots of time to spare. We both passed my in-laws again who came to see us pass, and I got a boost seeing them. I wish Laura and Miles could have joined us, but logistically, it wasn't possible. I tried my best to encourage Alex to stay with me, but on the 14th Street Bridge, he faded back and I didn't see him the rest of the day. After finishing, I found his wife at the tent and she said he had to drop out around mile 23 due to overheating. He didn't have a good day, unfortunately.

Another photo with Alex taken by his wife, Britt

The final 10K in Crystal City was a slog, but I was able to motivate myself to hold the best pace possible. Michael Pryce-Jones and his wife, Kathy, and newborn baby Isabella were there to cheer for me. I had given up the hope of breaking his 2:59:55 from last year, but with ideal temperatures, I could have made a run at it this year. The last few miles usually are a blur. The road back from Crystal City to Iwo Jima is dull and there are not many fans. I was grateful that with less than a mile to go, Big Guy, Steve Easley, a fellow coach, ran alongside me to give me that encouragement I needed. He probably saved me those few seconds that kept me in 3:08 range and from crossing over in 3:09. The final climb was a lonely one even with thousands of cheering fans, but I was ready to be done. I made one last sprint to overtake another runner and then the race was complete!

My splits

My splits and place: 7:13/6:59/59/45/7:03/00/00/04/02/02/6:54/58/50/52/7:06/11/07/07/04/19/26/23/25/29/36/37/ 2:59/7:19 (.41) - 5K = 22:06; 10K 21:39; 15K 22:12; 20K 21:16; 1:32:11 Half 25K 21:50; 30K 22:06; 35K 23:01; 40K 23:38; 3:08:31 Finish Division 32; Gender 172; Overall 186. This was my ninth time qualifying for the Boston Marathon in thirty-seven marathons. It was my fastest warm weather marathon and only BQ on a day without ideal conditions. I'm glad I am already registered for 2017 and now know that I am a good bet to make it into 2018. I will try to improve upon my time, but for now, I am not sure when my next marathon might be.

Miles and my medal and the sign the Goldins brought to the race.

I was very pleased with my effort. The temperatures were 60s to begin and 70s in the last hour with some sun. I had a good day in spite of 1) Inconsistent training since Miles was born 2) Inconsistent sleep since Miles was born and 3) the warm weather. I last ran this in 2005 in 3:29, so I will take a 21 minute course PR after an eleven year hiatus. It was nice to wake up in my own bed the night before a marathon for a change. Along the course, I saw the Zellers, the Goldins twice along the Mall, and Scott Cunningham as well as MPJ and Kathy, Brian Danza, and Steve Big Guy Easley who paced me for half a mile down the finishing stretch. To celebrate, I brought Miles to Brookland Pint to watch the Patriots beat the Bills - I won a bet with my associate who is a Bills fan and wore the Patriots jersey at work on Monday.

Miles at Brookland Pint. Kid can't hold his drink!