Thursday, January 31, 2008

2008 Miami Marathon Race Report

The 12 hours prior to the start of the race were a little chaotic. Shannon and I shacked up Saturday night by the Miami airport. That afternoon, we decided to take a “dry run” and head into the city. The objective was to get a little more familiar with where we would park in the morning, as well as give Shannon an idea where she could hang out during the race. We also wanted to check out and get a bite to eat in the Bayside marketplace. Our drive in was pretty easy and we found the parking garage listed on the Marathon website as a race morning option. We then continued on to the marketplace and before long it was a zoo. Not only was there the marathon runner crowd but there was also a Miami Heat basketball game downtown. As I was trying to find a place to park, a guy motioned that there was something wrong in the front of my vehicle. I looked out and noticed I had a flat tire on the rental car. Nice. So I pulled into a bus parking zone to change it. After getting the spare tire on, we parked and had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Shannon and I aren’t necessarily fans of theme restaurants and were hoping to get a taste of some local flavor, but we didn't have time to spare. Dinner at Hard Rock was good however and we felt comfortable with where we needed to go in the morning. So we headed back to our hotel and made plans for Avis to meet us there at 8:30 PM and provide us with a new car. Avis unfortunately didn't show up until after 10 PM! They sent over flat bed truck with a new rental. I figured they would a dude drive over a new car and drive mine back. Instead it was a major production in the parking lot with rotating lights, a beeping truck and a cuban dude yelling "Avis no give me inforn-mation!" So after getting that taken care of I finally headed off to bed. However, the jumbo jets that just about scrapped their landing gear on the hotel roof made it difficult to ease into a tranquil relaxed state. If you watch the TV show Lost, it was like the opening scene of the series played over every 15 minutes.

Here’s how close the planes were to the hotel:

In addition to the air show outside, there was a presumably large individual stomping around all night in the room above us. The hotel was clean, the upgraded suite we had was awesome, the proximity to the race was great, but now I know why the room rate was so cheap! So Shannon and I rested in bed for a few hours, but wouldn't exactly call it sleep. Shannon said to me "Heck you slept in a sack suspended between trees in the woods before the VT ultra. This shouldn't be bad for you." Good point.

At 4 AM on race morning we received our wake up call, got ready and headed out. As we approached the street we needed to turn onto to get to the parking garage we had scouted out, we noticed the road was blocked off. Uh oh, we can't get there from here! We noticed some runners parking on the street, so we looked over to scope things out. As Shannon looked out her window she got a full view of a skinny, pasty white, guy's ass. Nice! Dude was changing right there by his car. As Shannon worked to remove that visual from her brain, we followed the traffic which routed us away from our planned parking area. Immediately there was gridlock and confusion as nobody looked like they knew where they were going. So I asked a cop how to get back to the garage listed on the race web site. "You can't!!" he yells back. Ok, thanks douche! The traffic was jammed up trying to go straight so I ditched off into the right lane and went the way no one else was going. It was a great decision. It took me right to a parking lot next to the Bank of America tower. It was perfect. It was only a 10-minute walk to the start and just a few blocks away from the finish. It also was right next to the on ramp to the highway. We really couldn't have planned it any better.

The Race:
Finally, Shannon and I made our way to the start and I lined up in the first coral behind the seeded runners. The race started right in front of the American Airlines Arena which looked pretty cool in the dark lit up with neon lights.

I decided my race strategy would be to hang for awhile with Bruce, the 3:20 (7:37 Pace) pacer, and then break from the group, pick up the pace and go for a 3:15 (7:26 Pace) finish time. The temperature at the start felt comfortable in the mid 60’s. It only took me 30 seconds after the gun went off to cross the starting line. With over 10,000 runners it was crowded the first few miles of the race. Starting out in the dark at 6:15 AM was pretty cool. The beginning of the race routed us past the Port of Miami where many cruise ships were lit up and provided nice scenery. The first mile was casual at an 8:15 pace. I picked it up after that and hit the 10K point in 47:23 for an average pace of 7:37. Around mile 8 Bruce said he had to make a bathroom stop, so he handed me the stick with the balloons used to identify a pacer. I must’ve picked up the pace a bit because I heard a runner in the pack say “He’s not running the pace!” I guess they were correct, because from the 10K point to the 13.1 mile point, my average pace was 7:19. Bruce caught back up, took back the stick and we pushed on. At 10.5 miles there was an ING fan cheering zone. For a quarter mile, there were spectators all dressed in orange, waving pom poms, clanging cow bells, banging thunder sticks, screaming and cheering. It was awesome and provided a boost! I crossed the half marathon mark at 1:37:49 for an overall average pace of 7:27. I was only 38 seconds behind a goal of a 3:15 finish. I saw Shannon at the halfway point and gave her reassuring thumbs up.
I felt good but wanted to ensure that I stayed that way so I eased up a bit. At mile 15 I missed snagging an energy gel. There were so many people grabbing for gels at the same time my hand didn’t come out of the scrum with one. Bruce however, noticed I didn’t get one, so he sacrificed his and gave it to me. Thanks! Perhaps I slowed up a little too much over this stretch, since my pace over the next 5.5 miles was only 7:33 per mile. So after reaching the 30K mark in 2:19:43 (Overall pace of 7:29), I was now 1 ½ minutes behind the 3:15 finish goal. Uh oh, time to pick it up. At mile 25.5 there’s an incline up this small bridge. It was just enough to break my rhythm and cause a struggle. As I hit this point Bruce caught up to me and provided some much needed words of encouragement. (I’m not sure what happened to the 3:20 group he was pacing?) He stayed with me and made sure I continued over that crest and finished strong. As I came around the final corner and had 100 yards to the finish, I saw Shannon cheering on the side. The look on her face was priceless. She the expression of "Holy crap he did it!" I think she was more excited than I was. I ended up running the final 7.5 miles at a pace of 7:17 and crossed the line in 3:14:46 for an overall average pace of 7:26. Overall I finished in 117th place out of 2,714 runners. Finishing in under 3:15 is a PR for me and qualifies me to run the Boston Marathon. I registered today!

It all came together for me in this race. I trained hard and came into the race well prepared. The weather provided perfect running conditions. I had Shannon as an excellent support crew. I didn’t start out to fast and kept things in check throughout the race. I utilized the aid stations and kept hydrated. And then Bruce (the 3:20 pacer), sacrificed a gel for me and provided some words of encouragement to finish strong. As they say “Every dog has his day.” This past Sunday in Miami, it was mine.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Boston Qualified!

3:14:46. I'll see you in Boston!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Running Flick

I just got back from the local movie theater where I enjoyed the showing of the documentary “Spirit of the Marathon.” It was excellent! Tonight’s showing was perfect timing to provide that last bit of inspiration heading into this weekend’s marathon. Here’s a trailer from the movie:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Past Marathons

The Miami marathon will be my fifth road marathon. As I get ready for Miami, I thought I’d reflect on the four that I’ve previously completed.

Marathon #1:
Back in 2003 I cycled quite a bit with my friend Mark. We consistently hammered out 4 solid rides a week: A criterium race on Tuesdays. A 25-mile group ride on Wednesdays. 50 to 75 mile rides on Saturdays and Sundays. On the other days of the week I’d swim a few times and run once or twice. I directed all this training towards completing a few triathlons. Mark directed his training on making me suffer and towing me around the state. (Mark is a former Florida state cycling champ.) The biggest and coolest race I completed that summer was the 2003 Timberman Half Ironman in New Hampshire. I was in pretty good shape that year, so I figured I’d give a marathon shot. I signed up for the 2003 Marine Corp Marathon. As a training run, 3 weeks prior to the MCM I did the Hartford Half Marathon. I felt great and completed it in 1:35:28 (7:17 Pace.)

On October 26th, 2003, I confidently lined up with 16,000 other runners in Washington, DC and set out on my first marathon. I saw my family at the 2-mile mark, smiled, waved and let out a “hoorah!” At that point I thought the race was going to be a blast. But I don’t remember having anymore more fun after that point. By the time I got to the halfway point I was running out of gas and was knocking on the door of severe pain. I heard about hitting some “wall” thing, supposedly at around mile 20. I believed there must’ve been some kind of mistake because the wall seemed to be placed in front of me a bit too early. Wtf? I realized at that point I had no business trying to run a marathon. Doubling the furthest distance I had run to that point was a lot tougher than I thought. I saw my family again at about the 14-mile point and was extremely hungry. I had not paid attention to the food stations and didn’t know where they were ahead of me because I didn’t anticipate I’d need them. I figured I was just going to “suck it up” for a few hours. How hard could 4 hours of running be? I had battled through 6 hours of a half-ironman triathlon. I figured a marathon couldn’t be harder than that. Wrong answer!! I can’t believe how stupid I was. So I desperately asked my family to get me some food. The course looped around the National Mall, so I saw my family again a few miles later where they had a snickers bar and a bottle of Gatorade. I downed the food/drink and walked a bit to catch my wind. The next 6 miles were walking and shuffling, walking and shuffling, a miserable death march. It was terrible. When I crossed over the bridge back to Crystal City, there were Jersey barriers that I couldn’t resist stopping and sitting on. I really did not feel like continuing. I never felt so exhausted or experienced that much pain while running. I was completely depleted of energy. When I crossed the bridge I was very close to the hotel where we were staying. I thought to myself “The hotel is only a half mile away and the finish line is 3 miles. Thoughts of lying on my bed were difficult to get out of my mind. My family was waiting for me at the end so I figured I needed to finish. I dragged myself through the rest of the course and finished in just under 5 hours (Officially 4:58:22 (11:22 Pace).) The only consolation I had was that my time was pretty competitive in the Female over 65 age group. I would’ve placed third.

After the humbling MCM I wasn’t that eager to run 26.2 again. Actually, my wife and I had two kids and the focus turned away from athletic endeavors for a few years.

Marathon #2:
In 2006, I started back into working out and also talked my cycling partner Mark into giving the marathon a try. I wanted someone else to join in my suffering. After actually completing some long runs in my training and being a little more prepared with a race plan, I finished the 2006 Hartford Marathon in 3:36:22 (8:16 Pace). I had much better results in my second marathon attempt but it was still painful and very much a struggle. Mark displayed his incredible tolerance for pain and gutted out a 3:19:47 first marathon. Incredible! With a much better performance than at the 2003 MCM I was now hooked on the distance and looked forward to more races.

Me and Mark after the 2006 HM.

Marathon #3:
Through the winter of 2006 into 2007 I stepped up my training and was focused on improving my time and giving a shot at qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I was in great shape and the weather was as good as you can expect for February in the northeast as I toed the line for the 2007 Hyannis marathon. I was very confident that my goal would be achieved. In the first half I was joking with other runners and having a good time and hit 13.1 miles in 1:33:25 (7:07 Pace.) And then, as I’ve experienced before, a freight train blindsided me and I struggled to keep pace. At the 20-mile mark, a steamroller came by and finished me off. I struggled my way in and finished in 3:40:22 (8:24 Pace) I was disappointed that not only did I not come close to a BQ but also that I couldn’t improve on my 3:36 at the 2006 HM. After yet another humbling experience, a 3:15 marathon seemed (and still does) like it was going to be a monumental challenge. Mark ran this race as well and was able to keep pace after I faded. Impressively he pushed through and finished in 3:15:02. I admired his endurance, focus, toughness and ability to just simply get it done.

50 yards from the Hyannis finish.

Marathon #4:
In between the Vermont 50 and the Stone Cat 50 I completed the 2007 Hartford Marathon. I was nursing a groin injury so I had no expectations. The plan was to just run based on how I felt. Based on how much effort I was expending during the first few miles of the race, I knew that I wasn’t going to PR. I did however end up in the same range as the previous two marathons with a 3:36:58 (8:17 Pace.) I was happy to do well and get another 26.2 under my belt. And Mark again finished consistent with his previous marathons and knocked out a 3:15:52. Amazing for a guy who has a body more like Rocky Balboa than Ryan Hall! :)

So here I am getting ready for my 5th marathon. It’ll be an epic battle for sure…

Monday, January 21, 2008

Miami Countdown

The Miami marathon is less than a week away. I’m looking forward to race day! I’ve stuck with my training plan and have logged almost 300 miles in the past 6 weeks. I’ve mixed it up with interval, tempo, recovery and long runs. An average just shy of 50 miles per week in the months of December and January was pretty good for me, since most of those miles were run either in frigid temps, in the dark or indoors on a treadmill. Not the most ideal conditions. But I’ve enjoyed the training and am hoping that my hard work pays off and I can harness some of that Miami “magic” and pull off a PR finish time and qualify for Boston! As my friend Amy said to me, “YOU WILL BE running the Boston marathon. You have to believe it to achieve it!!” We’ll see. So this week I’ll be tapering, carbo loading and finalizing the logistics of our weekend in FL.

“A great soul with a great purpose can make a weak body strong and keep it so.” - Mark Twain

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shoe odor

Shannon is psyched I've converted our sun porch into the sneaker drying zone.

This morning I got out at 6:00 AM and ran my 12.4 mile route. I took over 2 minutes off the last time I ran it and finished in 1:30:47 ( 7:19 Pace.) I got home at 7:30 and the family was just waking up. Perfect timing to eat breakfast with the kids while Shannon was off to the gym with Kourtney for their workout. Excellent start to the weekend!

Monday, January 14, 2008


Tonight we put the fresh snow from today's storm to good use and we made a snowman. After watching him from the window for awhile it was evident that the hat was not magic.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

First Skate

Today we took the kids ice skating for the first time. Ciara said she'd try it next time. Alex loved it, did well and can't wait to go again.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tarzan Brown

On my run this morning I was listening to a podcast (Phedippidations episode 38) regarding the Boston Marathon. It reminded me of a funny story involving Shannon’s grandfather, Jimmy Dooley. Probably 8 years ago, (the Dooleys have both since passed away) Shannon and I were over her grandparent’s place and the Masters golf tournament was on TV. In small talk fashion, I asked gramp about watching the tournament. He responded “Yeah, watching that guy Tarzan Brown.” He had Alzheimer’s and I shrugged it off with a laugh that Jimmy was obviously a little confused. Gramp Dooley continued, “Yeah, he’s a Narragansett Indian.” Man, gramp has really lost it; he thinks Tiger Woods is an Indian from Rhode Island named “Tarzan Brown!” A few days later I told my brother-in-law Sean that story and we both thought it was pretty funny. But then a few weeks later Sean read in a sports history book that Tarzan Brown, a Narragansett Indian had won the Boston Marathon in 1936 and 1939. Tarzan was actually a real person! Gramp Dooley’s mind was digging up some old memories! The Dooleys lived in Rhode Island back in the day and Tarzan was a famous local hero. The podcast I was listening to this morning talked about the 1936 Boston marathon where John A. Kelley caught up to Tarzan, who was leading the race, at the 20 mile mark. At that point Kelley overtook Tarzan and Kelley patted Tarzan on the back as he ran by. Tarzan used the pat on the back as motivation to catch back up to Kelley and win the race. The story goes that the infamous last Newton hill was named “Heartbreak Hill” because Tarzan "broke Kelley's heart” with that 1936 victory. Also interesting, in the 1939 Boston Marathon, Tarzan was the first runner to break the 2:30 mark for the marathon.

Sorry we doubted you Jimmy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary

I saw in the news that Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mount Everest, died yesterday at 88 years old. Some of his quotes are worth posting:

As Hillary reached base camp after completing the climb of Everest, he summed up the monumental achievement:
"We knocked the bastard off."

I can relate to his simple philosophy of life:
"Adventuring can be for the ordinary person with ordinary qualities, such as I regard myself."

He also once said:
"I think it all comes down to motivation. If you really want to do something, you will work hard for it."

Right on Sir!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

1 Minute

Ciara has a cold. She’s got a nasty cough, congestion and is running a fever. Last night we coaxed her and Alex to bed at 7:45 PM. Shannon and I then cleaned up the house, got ready for today, relaxed for a few minutes and decided that we should hit the sack early. We figured Ciara would probably not sleep through the night and would have us up. So it was lights out at 9:12 PM. Exactly one minute later at 9:13 PM, Ciara started crying and calling out “Daddy!” She knows I’m a sucker and that I will go get her in a heartbeat, so she usually calls out for me. That was a record short night’s sleep for us: 1 minute! The next 3 hours were spent trying to get her comfortable as she struggled with her congestion and shifting back and forth between burning up and shivering. I brought her into our bed since I can’t fit into her crib. We rocked, snuggled, rubbed her back, and sang songs, while she blew her nose, cried, screamed and expressed her misery. After midnight, the medicine finally seemed to suppress her cough and allow her to breath clearly enough where she could sleep. The next problem was that Ciara hunkered into her position where she snuggled her head into Shannon’s neck with her body perpendicular to ours, so Ciara’s feet were perfectly placed to kick me in the face and chest. So after she sleep kick boxed my head for a while, I had enough and decided to relocate to the downstairs couch at about 1 AM. It was cold downstairs so I slid into my North Face mummy bag and tried to fall asleep. I finally dozed off but then awoke to being really hot. Mummy bags are toasty indoors. I tossed and turned and at 5:00 AM decided to just get up and go out for my run. I ate a banana, dressed for the below freezing temperature, slapped on my headlamp and off I went. I sensed that I was half asleep during the run because I kept getting startled by the jackrabbits scampering about. In the pre-dawn hours I normally see tons of rabbits along this route so it’s no big deal. But this morning it kept freaking me out, like there were rabid varmints attacking me. I definitely was not fully awake. I ended up completing the 12.5-mile route in 1:33 (7:30 pace). I was happy to get in a solid workout after dragging through a long night. I was psyched with my dedication to my current training plan, which is focused on completing the Miami Marathon in 3:15. I have not been able to go sub 3:30 in any prior marathon and realize that in order to achieve that goal I need to follow through with every training run. Plus I figured it was also good preparation for the Vermont 100 where I’ll be running in the dark while extremely tired!

This was my view on the run this morning:

This is what I wished I was seeing:

Or maybe this is what I was dreaming of:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Irish Runner

Shannon is getting back into a running mode. Last Spring Shannon trained for and completed her first 5K road race. She did great and ran the O'Hartford in 32:42. Here's a family photo before Shannon's race:

Here's Shannon waving just before the finish:

As the year progressed, the workout routine got squeezed out of her busy schedule. But now Shannon has teamed up with her friend Samantha and together they are training towards running in this year's O'Hartford 5K. Go Moms Go!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tiny Turco Team

The kids practiced their handyman skills tonight so they can help Uncle Sean and Auntie Lauren with their new house.

Then they brushed their teeth and went to bed.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Running with the dogs

Mark and I hooked up this morning for our first training run together in 2008. We set out at 6:30 AM from my place, navigating our way over and around black ice on the roads. The run quickly seemed to involve an unusual presence of dogs. It was if we had raw meat in our pockets. Or maybe the canine community was sensing weakness running down the streets. Dogs were barking at us and chasing us all along the route. One mutt actually bit Mark! Fortunately cold weather gear resulted in Mark surviving the attack with just a few teethe imprints on his glove and a bunch of slobber. Well maybe the slobber was actually Mark’s. Anyway that was the first time either of us actually got bit. We ended up with a solid 21.5 mile run and covered it in 2:49 (7:54 min/mile pace).

Here's my heart rate and pace data from the run:

Here are a few pics along the route we ran this morning:

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sub Zero = Treadmill

It was probably good that I listened to Shannon and ran indoors on the treadmill at the gym this morning instead of trying to brave the elements and survive a workout in the frozen tundra. The temperature was 3 deg this morning and the weatherman was reporting the wind chill made it feel like –7 degrees! I’ve never been a huge fan of treadmills, preferring to run outside year round. But some days, like today, it probably makes better sense to watch sportscenter and listen to a podcast while spending some time on the turn belt.

So this AM I got in a solid 75 minute run and worked up a pretty good sweat. I showered quickly, threw on my clothes and cruised off to work apparently without adequately getting a chance to cool down. When I went out to lunch today and got into my car, the steam coming off my body during my ride into work had frozen to the inside of the windshield. It was so cold there was no time to evaporate it just crystalized on the windshield! Never thought I’d have to scrape the inside of my windshield.

Actually this winter I’ve completed several workouts on the treadmill as I’ve been nursing a groin injury and have wanted to keep things a little more controlled rather than risk re-injury on the trails or icy roads. I picked up some tips from Paul DeWitt’s blog on treadmill running and have also been following a marathon training plan from the Boston Marathon site. The interval and tempo workouts noted in the training plan have been easier to execute on the treadmill. My mileage over the last 6 weeks has only been in the 35 to 40 per week range but they’ve been quality miles so I’ve been pleased with my training.