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!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hatfield McCoy Marathon Recap - 2nd Male/3rd Overall!

If you told me I would run a 3:27:30 marathon today, I would have reacted by feeling that I had a bad day. Yet, due to a challenging course on a hot day, my 3:27:30 was apparently good for third place overall and second male.

Second Male Award - Finishers get the mason jar. The Hatfield descendent gave me the bullet casing for coming in second.

I ran a fun course that is well-supported by the community through a scenic and historic route. It runs past many of the sites of the Hatfield and McCoy Feud and was listed by the Weather Channel as one of the 15 toughest marathons and Runner's World as one of the 10 bucket list marathons. I was supposed to travel with a friend, but he injured himself after the Boston Marathon. Despite my best efforts to find a travel companion, I ended up going solo.

Entering Kentucky!
I left Friday morning from National Airport where I rented a car. From there, I hopped on I-66 and traveled through Virginia then West Virginia. I only stopped once where I refueled and went to the bathroom. The drive was scenic. At the hotel in Logan, West Virginia, I rested before driving another thirty miles to the packet pick-up at Belfry High School in South Williamson, Kentucky. There, I chatted with other runners at the pasta dinner, watched the Hatfield-McCoy skit, and enjoyed the atmosphere.

At the pasta dinner with descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families.

In the morning, I arose, ate, got ready, and checked out of the hotel. The drive to the start was in the pitch-black with few cars out. I found parking near the start and chatted with a guy from Boston named Spence. We would end up running together for the first ten miles or so. I hung out with him at Food City in the parking lot wondering where the start of the race was since no one saw any indication of where we'd line up - turns out it was a simple line painted in blue on the road.

The race begins in Williamson travels up through Hardy, over a mountain, down through Buskirk, through Matewan, up towards the golf course at Sprigg and all the way up Aflex to end along the main road of downtown Williamson. At the start, many of us toed the line. A guy named Justin (standing to my left) asked me what my expected race finish was for the day. I said 3:10, but who knows given the heat. He asked a guy next to him (in the blue on his left) who replied 2:30 and then proceeded to sprint out in front. After quarter of a mile, he stopped. It looked like he just wanted to lead the race for a bit then wait for friends. Spence lined up next to Jessica (on my right). At 7:00 AM promptly, the race took off and Justin and another guy lead for the first 1.5 miles. But, the police led them the wrong way. We were running with Jessica who had run before so she knew to take a turn. I suspected the leaders would catch up, but I never saw them again and no one knows what happened to them. I even checked the results for his bib, but found nothing. I wonder what happened and how he must have felt.

The start of the race. No fancy timer mats: simply a blue line on the ground with the word "Start."

We had a decent crowd in the first few miles. I remember running side-by-side with Andy for a few miles and some other folks who were doing the half. The first big challenge was the hill around miles 6-7. We all took it slow and joked that someone should treat it like a hill workout. At the top, I caught my breath and started to let myself go fast down the hill to catch Andy again. But, a side stitch on my right slowed me down and prevented me from going under 7:20 again. At some point, Megan, the female winner, caught us and ran with us. Little did I know she would beat Andy by two seconds - and who would have thought 3:13 would be the winner today? By the half, I was mostly running by myself. Spence had dropped back and there wasn't anyone within my sight. The half was through the center of a small town. I remember raising my arms in jest as I passed the finish line for the first half. After the circle through town, it was back onto a lonely path hoping I was on the right course.

Jay, who is probably the only other Jew, and I met at dinner. I joked that we should do Mincha/Mariv after dinner. With Raj, we sat and watched the skit. He passed me early in the race, and I didn't recognize him when I passed him later in the race, right before the golf course. I also caught another runner who went straight instead of over the swinging bridge of the golf course. I only went the right way since I saw a photographer on the other side of the swinging bridge with some volunteers - and I remembered someone mentioning something about a swinging bridge. It certainly was not steady running over. When I landed back on solid ground I told them that they needed to have someone stand on the other side to direct runners. Apparently a sign fell down. There were times when I actually wondered if I was on the right course. Seeing signs cheering on runners (they make them for return runners), water and aid stations, and occasional blue paint on the ground reassured me that I was on the right route.

The last 10K was brutal. It was hot and there was one last long climb around mile 23. I remember when I saw the hill I shouted out an expletive that surprised the volunteers handing out water. At that point, the people I caught were second half finishers, many of them walkers and many in groups. One woman told me that I was third, but I didn't believe her. I assumed she miscounted because the last time I checked, there were a number of people ahead of me. A mile later, another woman walking with her group told me I was third. That's when I got competitive and realized that maybe she was right. I felt footsteps and looked over my shoulder occasionally, but I never saw anyone threatening. I hoped I could catch one more person to rise in rank. I repeated, "I didn't come this far just to come this far," and kept my legs moving. It was especially hot and my legs were done, but I kept going by sheer spirit. The final mile was not a fast finish like I aim for but a sustained shuffle of keeping my pace and counting down to the end.

When you cross the finish, you get a high five from these guys! I went back to display my second place award.

Overall, I enjoyed the race. It was the best 3:27:30 I have ever run. Who knew it was good for the podium? The lesson? Never give up. Just keep shuffling along as you never know how everyone else is doing. After the race, I stuck around for a bit, changed, and hopped in my rental car to return to DC. I made it in time for a celebratory dinner with the wife and dog at Brookland Pint. Another good time and happy with my effort. My plan is to try to take a break from hard running for a month before training for Marine Corps in the fall.

The results have been posted. The local news did a story and you can catch me at the start a few seconds into the video.

Splits: 7:15/30/27/26/35/49/8:28/7:17/21/34/33/48/42/52/48/49/ 8:21/7:48/51/8:02/25/19/33/9:05/8:39/42/ 1:29(.21) 2nd Male; 3rd overall; 1:38:39 Half

Finish line photo with DC Road Runner Club VP of Races, Raj!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016 Recap

The factors I cannot control are the ones that seem to bother me the most. There was the sun at the start, making it feel like a 70 degree day to start the race. There was the headwind pushing me back the closer I got to Boston. And, there were um, stomach issues, the night before the race. So now that I have my excuses out of the way, let's talk about what happened at the 120th running of the Boston Marathon.

Someone took a candid of me as I entered Athlete's Village

Heading into the Boston Marathon, I was feeling strong and confident. I was coming off of some very serious personal bests, namely the Houston Marathon in January in 2:59:31 and the Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon in 1:23:54, plus a very strong course PR at my club's Langley 8K, a hilly and challenging course. I wasn't concerned with my poor showing at the GW Birthday Marathon Relay (we got second place with no shot of taking first or any real challenge from the third place team), my withdrawal from the Club Challenge Ten Miler due to tired legs, or my hamstring issue that forced me to take a couple of days off prior to our Ireland trip including my final true long run. When I stood in the starting corral, I felt pretty good. I knew a personal record was unlikely due to the temperatures, and coach and I agreed that I should keep my pace between 6:55-7:05, aiming for a 7 minute pace. That would have given me a 3:03/4 and a huge course PR and another BQ. In retrospect, I probably would have been better served holding a 7:10-15 and aiming for a 3:10.

The day began early as my father drove me to the start in Hopkinton. We left by 6:10 and he dropped me off a few blocks from the runner's village around 6:40, plenty of time for him to get back on 495 before they shut the road. I vowed to spent less time on the course than I would spend in Hopkinton waiting for the race to start. 3:17 < 3:20 so mission accomplished. I found a spot in the sun and laid down and relaxed. I chatted up with a guy near me, Chris, who ran with Capital Area Runners. This was his second Boston and third marathon. At 8:30, I met Derek Bailey, my friend from Houston, by the "It all starts here" sign. We exited the village, headed down to the starting line in our corral, and waited.

Derek and I devised a plan to race together. For the first few miles, we were talking to each other, getting into our rhythm, and grabbing each other water. I went over the plan which was to hold on to a 7:05 pace, nice and easy, survive the hills intact, and make a go for it the final five miles. We mostly stayed together in the first 10K, but I had to run my own race. In my head, I told myself to get through the first ten using my head, the next ten using my legs, and finish strong using my heart (the final 10K). The first ten went according to plan, and the plan stayed mostly true until the Newton hills. Someday, I'll be fresh when I hit those hills, but Monday wasn't that day, and rather than waste myself trying to maintain pace, I climbed them trying to just keep moving forward.

In the past, I knew I wouldn't have a good day in 2012 when at the 10K, it felt like the 20 mile mark in that almost 90 degree heat. In 2014, I think I made it to the ten mile mark before I started to negotiate with myself as I backed off the pace. This time, it wasn't until mile 16 when I knew coming in under 3:10 wasn't going to happen. I know they say there are four hills in Newton, but I somehow counted six. At the top of Heartbreak, I felt some freshness return to my legs and thought about picking up the pace. But, given that 3:10 was no longer realistic, I lost my motivation to put myself through any more struggling. I certainly didn't quit, but I didn't have the same positive view I had in Houston in the final miles. I'm confident that had one of my time goals other than to set a course PR been achievable, I could have willed myself to push it

What kept me going the final few miles was looking forward to seeing my family at Coolidge Corner. We scouted a spot on Saturday at the corner of Beacon and Harvard, so I knew exactly where to look for them. As I approached, I slowed to kiss them and say hi and demand a picture. My wife pushed me away, worried about my time, but you can see that in this video my father shot. They were just before the Mile 24 marker, and I left them at right around 3:00:00 on the dot, so I knew I could do about two and a quarter miles in less than twenty minutes, perhaps as quickly as 17 minutes. With my mind set on 3:17, I tried a few surges and with one mile to go, I had 7:30 to break 3:18. My watch had me on 7:30 ish pace for most of the mile, but when I turned left onto the final straight-away, I entered the pain tunnel and pushed my body across the finish line with time to spare. A 3:17 and a new personal course record!

After, I wobbled through in a daze, freezing as the wind had picked up and there was no more sun since the buildings blocked it out. I met my friend, went back to his apartment for a shower and change of clothes (gave them to him Sunday at the expo), and took off to the T (Back Bay to State and transfer to Blue to the airport and then a shuttle bus to the C Terminal). At the airport, my father and wife picked me up, we got food nearby in East Boston and a beer, and then we were onto the airport. I had time to sit at Boston Beer Works before our flight home to DC.

I received the following official email from the Boston Athletic Association:

Your finish time is listed below.
Kenny Ames
Net Time3:17:49
In Gender3870/14471 (Male)
In Division2309/4807 (M18-39 Age Group)

This gives me a chance to compare my results of my four Boston Marathons:

2012 - Bib # 4186
22:44 5K; 46:14 10K; 1:11:24 15K; 1:38:09 20K; 1:44:55 Half; 2:08:07 25K; 2:41:38 30K; 3:17:14 35K; 3:52:47 40K; 4:07:40 Finish. 10122 Overall; 6956 Gender; 2947 Division.

2013 - Bib # 4935
21:47 5K; 42:58 10K; 1:04:27 10K; 1:26:46 20K; 1:31:46 Half; 1:50:18 25K; 2:15:15 30K; 2:41:14 35K; 3:08:03 40K; 3:19:41 Finish. 5774 Overall; 4962 Gender; 2730 Division.

2014 - Bib # 6304
21:51 5K; 43:33 10K; 1:05:32 15K; 1:29:48 20K; 1:35:00 Half; 1:54:55 25K; 2:21:42 30K; 2:49:37 35K; 3:17:49 40K; 3:29:06 Finish. 9029 Overall; 7076 Gender; 3311 Division.

2016 - Bib # 4174
22:11 5K, 44:16 10K, 1:06:26 15K, 1:29:07 20K, 1:34:02 Half, 1:51:59 25K, 2:16:13 30K, 2:41:58, 35K, 3:07:43 40K; 3:17:49 Finish. 4438 Overall; 3866 Gender; 2309 Division.

I know I am getting better and smarter as a runner, but I would have had a faster race if I set my goal to 3:10 instead of 3:05. I should recognize I do not fare well in heat, especially if I have not had a chance to acclimate. Hopefully, future races give me the perfect 45 and overcast weather where I thrive! On to the next one...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Running in Ireland

Laura and I traveled to Ireland for our one year anniversary, and like all of our trips, I am quite excited to run in new places. Last year ( May 2015), we took our honeymoon in Europe, and I was able to run in Reykjavik, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Paris. Three years ago (August/September 2013), we went to Brussels (only a layover so no time to run), Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, and Zurich. And, this past September (2015), we traveled to Montreal for a weekend. Prior to traveling with Laura, I had run in Madrid, Rome, and Florence (August/September 2012); Warsaw (July 2011); Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (June 2010 and December 2011); Berlin (December 2010); and London (October 2009).

Irish flags - that's how you know you're in Ireland, or South Boston.

Dublin: March 25-27

Dublin is a pretty neat town. We were quite jetlagged as we barely slept and when we landed, it was already morning. After getting the rental car, I had to adjust to driving a car on the wrong side of the road with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car. Plus, the stick shift was done with my left hand (not a problem since I’m ambidextrous), and the street signs are in metric. Once at the hotel, we were able to check in and then wander around for someplace to eat. We found a cafe across from Trinity College and then booked one of those hop-on/hop-off buses to take us around Dublin for two days. We stayed on the bus for a while to get our bearings of the city. We learned where the Guinness Storehouse was, passed by Kilmainham Gaol where there was a ceremony commemorating the 1916 Uprising, and went out to the Phoenix Park, which would make a lovely running route. When we went back to the hotel to rest, I set out to run an out and park in Phoenix Park. Unfortunately, I hurt my hamstring earlier in the week and the pain started to bother me near Guinness. I wisely stopped two miles into my run and walked back to the hotel. Laura was sleeping so I soaked in the bathtub.

I'm happy because I haven't yet aborted my run.
Prior to dinner, I went to the hotel bar while Laura finished getting ready. Oddly, no alcohol can be served on Good Friday in all of Ireland, but apparently the loophole is your hotel can serve its guests. I brought my book, Round Ireland with a Fridge, and was reading it when a local plopped down next to me. Since he couldn’t order for himself, I bought PJ a Guinness and he gave me advice on what to do in Dublin and around Ireland. He had lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City as he worked in construction; now, he is retired but owns and manages property. At dinner, we found a pub that could serve us dinner but nothing spirited to drink. For dessert, we enjoyed Murphy’s ice cream, which is based in Dingle and we would enjoy more than this one time.

On Saturday March 26, we took a long walk of about two miles from our hotel to the Guinness Storehouse. Once inside, we toured the factory, and it was pretty much a zoo. There were long lines everywhere. While I found it interesting, it wasn’t actually a brewery but an "experience." When we made it to the end and sat down at their nice dining restaurant, but they didn’t bring me my drink until after I had finished my lunch. At least they didn’t charge me for it, as I barely drank it. We finished by going to the top to redeem our drink ticket and get a Guinness and look over the city. But, it was too crowded and I had a few sips before we decided to leave. After, we took the hop-on bus to the Kilmainham Gaol, but when we arrived around 2PM, we were told there were no more tours for the day - they had sold out. Instead, we hopped on the next bus and went back to the downtown area and instead went into Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and their old library.

Trinity College Old Library next to the Book of Kells
At night, we went to O’Neill’s (misspelled according to my good Irish friend), for a drink before finding a proper pub for dinner. We had a nightcap and dessert at the pub near our hotel. That night/early morning, I experienced springing forward a second time as their clocks went into daylight savings time.

Phoenix Park and an obelisk.
I arose early to get in a run and see if my hamstring was all right. It held up without pain, just discomfort, for the six mile route I planned for Friday which was by the Laffey River and to Phoenix Park and back. They were preparing for the 1916 Easter Uprising parade and celebration, so I snapped a few pictures.

1916 Easter Rising Centennial Run

Kilkenny: March 27-28

Having walked most of Dublin, it was now time for my first real driving experience in the countryside. The drive out of Dublin took a while as much of the city was blocked off for the 1916 Easter Rising parades and celebration. The GPS kept taking us into barriers, but we eventually figured out how to leave town. Once in Kilkenny, which took less than two hours, we checked in, found the garage for the car, and found a hotel bar that would only serve us scones and croissants.

After, we took the Smithwick’s tour, which was another "experience" as it isn't a brewery. On our tour were a couple from Freetown and two couples from Olney, Maryland. The Freetown couple - he was a state trooper and she was a paramedic/firefighter. Another couple was living in Colorado, but originally from Michigan. This was a better tour than Guinness as it was more personalized and informative and less crowded. And, at the end, I got to enjoy a beer and posed for a pour of a beer. For lunch, we hopped into a pub for pizza and a pint where we chatted it up with a newlywed couple from the Jersey Shore - eight months married. We toured the Kilkenny Castle which reminded us of Downton Abbey and went back to our hotel room to rest before dinner. At night, we went to Kyteler's Inn where we enjoyed authentic Irish traditional music. For a drink, we found the Hotel in the Wall Pub, which was a tiny speakeasy.

Monday morning, I took a run on the River Nore and the hamstring was even better. I was going to add an eighth mile, but I started to feel it and decided that seven was fine. It was a beautiful run through the woods and along the river. If I needed more miles, there were more paths and sidewalks.

View of the Nore River in Kilkenny

Waterford: March 28-29

Waterford was a quick drive from Kilkenny. We were there really only to tour the Crystal Factory. It was quite the fascinating experience to see crystal made in front of us. I had a ball, literally. In the morning, I went out for a longer run which was out and back along the river and then past the hotel, past Reginald's Tower (which we toured after the crystal factory), and to a park that was one kilometer around (I ran six loops).

Sunrise over Waterford
Reginald's Tower
Dingle: March 29-31

On our way to Dingle, we stopped at the Rock of Cashel, which offered great views but cold and wind. We posed by the castle on a sunny day. That drive to the rock took us through some one lane roads that were traveled in both directions while the drive to Dingle from the Rock took a good three plus hours. But, once we hit the Dingle Peninsula, we were rewarded with incredible views! In fact we saw some amazing weather off the shore and a pretty cool classical music song was on the radio so we took a video that came out well done. We checked in, walked to the town and stopped in every gift shop. For dinner, we ate at Danno's, and celebrated our one year anniversary. Of course, we had Murphy's ice cream for dessert.

Slea Head Drive

In the morning, I rose early to test out the hamstring and ran out five miles clockwise around the Slea Head Drive and then back. It was dark and cloudy when I departed but I got a good view of the sunrise. Going out, it was a bit hilly, but the views on the way back were incredible. I particularly liked all the sheep baah-ing at me. I have some great photos and video of the sheep telling me to go away.

The drive was really pretty. We stopped at a pottery place - we noticed that many of the pottery shops were also cafes. Halfway around the loop, we stopped at a cafe and ordered a scone and milk. At another spot, we pulled over and saw people climbing to the top of a hill, but decided not to hike up the trail. At another point in the road, I almost hit a dog that was in the road and wouldn’t move. He looked soaked and scared and Laura had to get out of the car to help him move along so he wouldn’t end up dead. Poor little guy.

That night, we got a drink at Dick Mack’s pub and met a couple from Charlotte, NC, that attended one of the UNC (Chris and Jennifer). Chris graduated in 1996 and married in 1999, but they haven’t traveled much since they have two kids. I discussed politics and the absurdity of North Carolina passing an anti-LGBT law. Chris defended it saying it was protecting the children. I usually find that protecting the children is code for, “We just don’t like this behavior.”

Just prior to sunrise, eight miles out from Dingle town
For my second run in Dingle, I arose quite early and ran in the dark going counterclockwise on the Slea Head Drive out eight miles and back for a total of sixteen. It was completely dark for the first half as the road was lit only by the moonlight - going out, I saw one car with its headlights on, but no one was in the car as it was parked by a house. It was a terrifying yet exhilarating run, and I kept thinking that I better not get mauled by the sheep or wild animals! I passed Mount Brandon and took a picture at the halfway point. The last four miles were mostly downhill, so I decided to hold a pace just slower than my half marathon pace, finishing up in 6:33/35/36/15. The hammy felt good!

I'm pretty sure this is Mount Brandon as seen during sunrise on my way back into Dingle.

Breakfast at the hotel was amazing as they had a full buffet then took your order. Yesterday, we stuffed ourselves on the breads, fruits, and cereals that we didn’t have room for anything from the kitchen. Today, we were wise to leave room and were not disappointed. David, Cameron’s son, is taking over the bed and breakfast and was the chef. During breakfast, I spotted a full rainbow outside the B&B and took a fantastic photo.

Ennis: March 31-April 2 (Cliffs of Moher and Galway)

We drove from Dingle towards our destination for the day, the Cliffs of Moher. The best way was to take a ferry from Tarbet to Killimer for €18. On the ferry, I asked the steward for the wifi password and he replied “Not Working.” I asked if that was all lower case, but he didn’t get the joke. Then it was another hour to the Cliffs of Moher. We again traveled down an unnamed side road where we could barely tell if a car was approaching due to some high climbs.

At the Cliffs, we ate lunch consisting of soup before going out to explore. They have a barrier to keep you safe and recommend staying inside. We saw a number of idiots crossing the barrier including a father who took his two year old son over the rail. There have been several folks over the years to fall over - there is a plaque memorializing them. I took a nice selfie but was photobombed.

Be careful!

From the Cliffs, it was a short drive to Ennis. There was no hot water for me to soak in the bath. We walked around the town, guided by Martin who is one of the workers of the hotel who needed to stretch his legs. He is also a runner and detailed a 5K loop that I dubbed the Roundabouts of Ennis since it turned left at each roundabout. We ate dinner in the restaurant, Poet's Corner, attached to the hotel. It was really the only option we considered as we ate there both nights. And, both of my runs consisted of loops of the roundabouts of Ennis - eight miles on Friday that was two loops plus an out and back through the town center and ten miles on Saturday that was three loops plus a shorter out and back through the town finishing with eight striders.

Ennis was the only place I ran where I didn't take any pictures on my run. On Friday, April 1, it rained most of the day and we spent it in Galway, an hour away. After lunch, we walked to the City Museum and saw the underwhelming and overhyped Spanish Arch.

The "famous" Spanish arch - do you see it?

Running was fun in Ireland. I started out injured in Dublin but gave the hamstring the proper rest and as I write this with about a week to go until Boston, I feel that I am at full strength and ready to at the least set a personal course record (3:19 in 2013). Not only did I enjoy most of my runs on the Emerald Isle (except for Dublin where I aborted one and was tender for the second one), but I left behind my "JHU-labeled" shoes as they hit 500 miles: I need the room in my luggage for souvenirs for the niece and nephews.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Half Marathon PR at Rock 'N Roll DC

My coach mentioned that often one can secure a half marathon personal record while training for a marathon. We decided to go for it and ditched last Saturday's workout in favor of a simply long run with no push so that I would be fresh. Plus, we scheduled a mini taper this week to aid in my goal to walk the start line with fresh legs.
I left my house around two hours prior to the start, walked to the BikeShare and took a bicycle, rode down and docked by the NoMa Harris Teeter, and started my warm up run by running to and around the Capitol then down the Mall near 12th Street. I put in three slow but steady warm up miles followed by my pre-race routine. In the starting corral, I saw Rob Wolfe (2:55), Alex Albertini (3:07), Amanda Hicks (1:28), and Dan Burns (1:33). Many of us chatted it up and talked about our goals for the race. Alex was hoping to qualify for Boston and he did since in 2017 he will be 35. I think his time should be enough under the qualifying time of 3:10 to get back to Boston.
When the race began, it was crowded for the first few miles. I held steady and put down a 6:37 which was in line with my goal for the first mile. Two guys in front of me were chatting and blocking me until one asked if I wanted to pass them. When I replied that I did, they parted and I darted ahead. As I left them behind, I heard one say to the other something about he didn't want anyone other than his girlfriend breathing on him. I found that funny yet I thought to myself, "If you don't want to be so close to people, don't race a large race," since the first few miles are always so crowded and people try to get around others. The second mile through southern Foggy Bottom and toward the Lincoln Memorial allowed me to begin to quicken my pace. I recall that the first water stop was manned by DC Front Runners. I didn't have a chance to get any fluids and went along over Memorial Bridge, around the traffic circle in front of Arlington Cemetery, and back over the same bridge then left down towards Rock Creek Parkway. Once I passed the 5K mark, I noticed a white guy with long dreadlocks and I thought he might be some runner I ran with at the Rocket City Marathon. I asked him if we met in Huntsville and he said he'd never been, so it wasn't him. I wished him a good race and he slowed down, realizing he went out too fast for his projected marathon pace.
On the slope and just prior to the Kennedy Center, my club, DC Road Runners Club, was manning that fluid station. I grabbed a Gatorade from Miguel Cuya and found Michael Pryce-Jones who handed me some water and cheered me. Rock Creek can be a challenging section with its rolling terrain, but I held steady in the 6:20s with my goal to keep it close to 6:25. The "Calvert Climb" is the real challenge for this course. I planned to expect to lose thirty seconds and was fortunate to keep the mile under 7:00 (barely at 6:59). Once I crested, there were more rolling hills through Adams Morgan, but I recovered well to keep the next two miles close to 6:21. I frequently run this stretch in training and knew exactly what to expect. The final real climb of the half took us up Harvard and once we crossed Georgia Ave, we were headed downhill and past the McMillan Reservoir and Howard University. Here, I simply wanted to stay consistent. Right when the race took us onto North Capitol, we passed mile nine and I did some bad math in my head and thought I was going to come in around 1:25. My course PR set in 2014 was 1:25:47 and I had to work hard at the end for it, passing a fellow club member in the last half mile.
After a mile on North Capitol, we crossed the ten mile mark which meant there was 5K left. At that point, I thought to myself that I could certainly finish within twenty minutes and that would put me close to 1:24:30 or so, which would be close to my PR and certainly faster than my course personal record. But, I felt good running through H Street - where I was cheered on by the H Street Runners and fellow GW alumni, Adam Siple - and ran a strong 6:21. The last challenge was going from H Street up 13th Street then left on Constitution and another left on North Carolina. That puts you on C Street and within the final mile where I was able to really turn on the jets. My finishing kick and the friendly downhill left me average a blistering 5:45 for the final 1.1. That effort not only earned me my personal best but helped me sneak in under 1:24 - a thirty-one second personal best!
The course was much harder than my previous PR at the Navy Air Force Half in the fall, also here in DC, which is basically the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Course with part of Rock Creek added onto the route. If I can get under 1:23, I can qualify for the New York City Marathon; or, if I can hold onto my time and age up into the over 40 men, under 1:25 will do it. Either way, it was a great day for a race, a great job sticking to the plan, and perfect weather to accomplish my goal!
My splits = Thirty second PR and nearly a two minute course PR! Ran smart. Started off easy and held a strong pace. 6:37/27/22/20/27/24/59 (Calvert Hill)/ 21/22/11/21/26/ 5:46 for mile 13 and 52 seconds for the final .16 according to my Garmin for a 5:34 sprint finishing kick.
99 overall/14470; 89 Male/5731; 12/929 Division
Next race = the best race in the world, the Boston Marathon!

Monday, January 25, 2016

12 Weeks to Boston

It is amazing to think that the gloves I am wearing to shovel the snow were worn last week, just a few days ago, at the Houston Marathon.  I'm quite fortunate the storm did not come earlier or I would have either not been able to fly to Houston or would have chosen not to go as I am not about to leave my wife home by herself for this.

This is what two feet of snow looks like.

The storm has forced me to take two consecutive days off from running - something I hadn't done in quite awhile.  I think it was actually beneficial as it gave me rest from the personal best and helps me recover so I can begin the next training cycle strong.  My goal is to replicate my feat at Boston on April 18.  Instead of running on Saturday and Sunday, I shoveled.  A lot.  Five shifts of ninety minutes over the two days to dig out our walkway to the main street, a path around the house to the trash and alley, clear the deck from snow so it doesn't ruin, and clear off cars.  The walkway was cleared from my attached neighbor's house (on our left as we look at 17th Street) all the way to Monroe Street.  With my neighbors on the right, the six of us cleaned the walkways and dug out many cars.

This is how you clear a sidewalk - not a path, the entire sidewalk!

This morning, I went for a run along the road next to Catholic University and then we went down the MBT.  The MBT had sections that were fine for running toward the head of the trail as we went past Rhode Island Avenue, but when we hit the bend and passed under New York Avenue, the path wasn't cleared and the footing became treacherous.  I ran with Shawn and we agreed that we would stick to the paved roads.  I also have not done any strength training or yoga, but if I do not do them for another week, that won't be an issue.

The path from the front to the backyard.

I communicated with my coach and we planned out most of the workouts for the next twelve weeks.  Nothing is foreign or new.  We will use some club races including Langley 8K, the Club Challenge, and the George Washington Marathon Relay.  We will also use the Rock N Roll USA as a preparatory race.  With our vacation to Ireland in March, we'll have to schedule accordingly.  Otherwise, I am hopeful that I can get into the kind of shape that will get me from Hopkinton to the finish in Boston in less than three hours - weather and more factors cooperating, of course.
The path to the alley.

Our back porch.