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!

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.