Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Personal Victory on the Hills of Clermont

I’ve never done well at the marathon. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I just have never been able to tie together 26.2 good miles. All that changed yesterday.

Dick Beardsley holds the world record for most consecutive marathons while improving your time. He did 13 of them ending with the famous “Duel in the Sun” with Alberto Salazar in the 1980 Boston Marathon. He ran 2:08 and change. Check it out on YouTube:

I’m no Dick Beardsley. I was going for the opposite record. I’d finished 5 marathons in the last 10 years and got exponentially slower on each of them. 2:56, 2:59, 3:03, 3:10 and 3:37. I did one other marathon in 2003 that I didn’t finish. I chose to take the Green Line in from mile 16 of the Boston Marathon instead of facing the death march like I did in the 2007 Florida Marathon; my last pitiful attempt where I walked the last 9 miles.

Things didn’t look good leading up to the race. I have lots of breathing problems with my asthma this time of year. I couldn’t complete my run the day before because of it. I’ve been nursing an Achilles problem all year and it’s gotten quite painful. I couldn’t complete me run on Wednesday because of that. Basically the only good run from the last two weeks was a 14 miler last Friday night that I had to stop early because my Achilles was causing problems in my calf as well.

Damn all that crap. Shut up and run.

Race morning dawned windy and cold. 45 degrees driving to the start. I held my nose, wrote the check for $100 and I was ready to go.

Race Report: Florida Marathon, Clermont Florida December 19, 2009.

Sommer Sports did their typical lackluster job putting on the race. There was no National Anthem. No course preview. No race instructions. No nothing. 30 seconds to start and we were off.

When I did the race 2 years ago the first 5 miles were rolling hills. The middle 16 were on a dead flat bike trail leading to the final 5 miles of rolling hills with the biggest monster at mile 25. Nice. It was hot and I hit the wall around mile 17 and walked it in. No problem with the heat today.

What? The course has changed? Can I see a map? No maps. What do you mean no maps? There gone. Sorry. Whatever.

One change that I noticed right away was the start. Last time we started at the top of the hill and finished on the track. This year they were starting on the track. Crap.

If you’ve been to the track at the National Training Center you know that I mean. There is only one way in and one way out of that place. Yeah, it’s a big fat hill.

Before I go on let’s get one thing straight for those of you that aren’t from this area and have never been to Clermont. Ask any Central Floridian and he or she’ll tell you that it is VERY hilly. The hills don’t go on for miles like up north but you can’t go anywhere in Clermont without going up or down a hill.


Around the track for the first 285 yards and up the first of 14 hills that I’d have to ascend today. Life is going to be fun for the next 3 hours.

Not knowing the course my goal was to run 2:45. That’s 6:18 per mile. As soon as I found out what the course was and felt the wind I knew that was going to be impossible. A race is a race. Time to race.

Mile one: 6:18. I thought it was pretty ironic. At this point one guy had pulled away and I had caught him and he had pulled away again. I was in 2nd and behind me a pack of runners. Looks like the race was going to be competitive for the first time in its 3 years. Good deal.

6:08, 6:30. After mile 3 I got passed by 2 guys and was running in 4th. I felt strong and as you’ll see by the splits was having trouble maintaining a pace because of the wind and hills. 6:15, 6:11, 6:34 for 4, 5, and 6. I was now gaining confidence with every stride. The pace felt comfortable so I didn’t have to push. I could see the guys in front and there was still a group behind. He Achilles hurt but not very much. My calf was perfect. Today could be my day. 6:35.

Uh oh. I know that feeling. That is the feeling having to do number two. For me it’s never a wait and see. I’ve got to go now.

And I did… in the bushes. I didn’t want those gloves anyway.

7:43 for mile 8. This includes “crappin’ time”.

Out from behind the brushes and up a big hill. At the top I was wiped. Done. Knackered. Blah. My mojo was gone. Apathy was its replacement. Headwind.

I wasn’t going to pack it in here. Instead I was going to keep on pushing to see if my body would feel good again. I did. And I did.

This is a moment of decision that we all face from time to time, right? We are doing something that is hard. We know it is going to be hard but what the time comes that we must struggle and have faith. What do we really do?

Yeah, many of us pick up our balls and go home. We give in and we give up. Oh that’s too hard. Or we tell people, “See I told you I couldn’t do it”. Sob.

F**k that.

Time to run. 6:39, 6:38, 6:24, 6:46, 5:49. OK, we are at the halfway point and what a cruel halfway point. Approaching mile 13 you go down the big hill that you went up in the beginning, you run around the track, you see the finish for the half-marathon, you see people finishing the half marathon, you can see the finish, you can smell the hot dogs, but yet you must turn around, go up the big ass hill and do 13 more miles.

I was in 4th until my little potty break and then 7th ever since. The guy in second was the only one to turn around in front of me so I was now in second. There is something a little magically about the second half of a long race. It feels more now like you are going home and not away from home. I always get a burst of energy. I felt good. 1:25 for the half-marathon. Half-marathon to go.

6:26, 6:28, 6:40, 6:46, 6:25. The leader was 2 minutes up at the half and I had worked to within a minute of him by mile 18. Now it was several hilly miles and lots of wind. Thankfully this is where I met Kevin Grogan.

Kevin is a friend, rival, and owner of “Gear For Multisport”. The tank top that I was wearing is one that he’d given me two years ago to represent “Gear For Multisport” in this very race. I was so pathetic that year that I figured I needed to redeem myself.

For the next 8 miles Kevin would be there almost every step of the way. He would feed me gels and drinks. He would even post to Facebook how I was doing. Kevin certainly saved the day.

With 8 miles to go in a marathon lots of thins are going on. Obviously there is still a long way to go so your better not be bonking. It was also too early to start surging for the finish. I just kept doing what I was doing and pushing my hardest. My splits were getting slower and the sub 2:50 dream was gone but I could still go after the personal best set in the 2000 Boston Marathon of 2:56.


6:56. HOLD ON. For the love of God. Hold on. 7:08. Slowing but not bonking. Yet…

7:26, 7:10. You can do it. I know you can do it. Push to the end. The wind and hills don’t matter. One foot in front of the other. YOU CAN DO IT!

Mile 24. Biggest hill on the course. Who is the BASTARD that thought of this…

7:27. No more hills. One more out and back. Down the hill. Around the track…

7:19. The mile 25 marker is the most awesome site EVER. I can run a mile. I can run a mile. I am going to finish this race and I am going to run the best and fastest marathon of my career on a cold and windy day on a course with 14 hills.

And I am going to do it by running 6:06 for the last mile because I can.

Now I am on the track and at the 26 mile mark. Damn 285 yards. I pushed and pushed. With 100 yards to go I could see the clock. I can break 2:55. Let’s do that. Fight the cramps! I won the fight with the cramps but lost the battle with the barrier.

I crossed in 2:55:01 in 2nd place. The guy in frond was less than 2 minutes ahead and the next guy behind was less than 2 minutes behind. A good race for sure.

My two fastest marathons both included me stopping to Winnie the Pooh in the middle of the race. I wonder if that means anything.

This kind of effort would surely have been a sub 2:45 marathon in Boston or any other course for that matter. Oh well. Another day and another race.

Next up it’s a month off from running to heal my Achilles. My swimming starts on Wednesday. Only 32 weeks till my Ironman debut. It seems like a long time…

2 weeks prior to marathon and week after

Basically I did very little. I tried a long run 8 days before the marathon and made it 13 miles just under 7 minute pace. Not a great effort. All the other days I did light runs, walks or easy bike rides. I tried my best to nurse my achilles as much as humanly possible. Now I have rested for one week and contemplating training again next week.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Enbark Savannah Bridge Run 2009

Rain. I love the rain. In renews your energies and spawns thoughts of a brighter tomorrow. It’s just nice. Sigh.

But it sucks to drive in.

When we planned on driving to Savannah last Friday night we had delusions of granger. We were going to get to town in time for a romantic dinner and fireworks.

Instead it was a 5 ½ hour slog through the rain to see a few flashes of light in the rain soaked sky as we pulled up to our hotel room.

Oh well. We found a place for a quick bite and it was off to the room to sleep for the night. In the morning the Enbark Savannah River Bridge 5k and 10k. At 10:30pm we decided to check the website to see where registration and the start were. In retrospect there probably was a more appropriate time to do this…

“Oh oh, we have a problem. There is no race day registration.”

What an idiot. I really should have checked that, huh?

Of course now my wife and my differing philosophies butted heads. She says, “Look it’s a sign…” Oh please. I assured her that I’d get a number. I went to bed not knowing if I’d be able to do the race. “What, the rules don’t apply to you?” I didn’t have an answer for that one.

Out the door at 6am. Registration was to begin at 6:30am so I figured I’d get there early and beg my way in. Our motel room was actually on the race course and very close to the finish line. As a matter of fact the 6 mile mark for the 10k was almost in front of the parking lot. This means that the 5k start was 3 miles away. I’d run the race in 17:57 later. Why did it take me 35 minutes to drive 3 miles? Well… it’s because I’m an idiot.

If I had opened my eyes as I left the motel I would have see that the on-ramp for the bridge (the race started on the other side of the bridge) and drive right to the start. Instead I inexplicably went left. Then I found the highway. Aha! I’ll get on here…

Crap… the wrong way. I’ll just get off at the first exit and reverse direction. Crap…. Another highway. OK, reversed direction on second highway. OK, back going towards the bridge…

Missed my exit.

Back at my hotel. Crap. Crap. Crap.

Started over and found the bridge. Nice. OK now for the real challenge before the challenge. How was I going to beg my way into a full race? I can do anything I set my mind to. I decided to be honest.
Luckily when I arrived there were very few runners and mostly volunteers. I pleaded my case and ended up in front of the race director. Thankfully they had some extra numbers. I paid for mine and was off to my motel room to do a little “I told you so…”.

Now I had a race to run. Actually two races to run.

5k first. The 5k race went up and over the big bridge (5% incline for about ¾ mile) and finished downtown. As I waited in the pouring 48 degree rain I couldn’t believe how many people stood there shivering with me. There were 1500 brave souls in this race. Nice.

Santa blew the bull horn and we were off into the freezin’ ass rain. I went right to the lead. I felt strong and was running hard.

My strategy was to run as hard as I could in the 5k and see what was left in the tank for the 10k.

As I started up the climb I got caught and passed. The leader pulled away and had about 10 seconds at the top of the climb. My first mile was 5:46, and then I slowed to 6:06 for the second mile because of the assent. As I ran down the hill the gap began to grow thin. At the bottom of the hill the leader was maybe 10 meters in front. I made the pass at the top of a small hill and in front of my hotel.

My last mile was 5:35 and it felt great. I crossed the line with my hands in the air. This picture (the one that is shone above) was in the online paper the next day.

17:57 and first place in a 5k with 1500 people. Good stuff! I was happy and very proud! My day, however, was not over. I had another race to run.

The fellow that finished 2nd was only 3 seconds back and he was doing the “Double Pump” as well. The guy in third... yeah, he was also. He was around 20 seconds back. It was going to be in for a dog fight if I wanted to win the Double Pump crown.

Bring it.

I did my media interviews and found a nice warm hotel to hang out in. I even found a internet kiosk and updated my Facebook status. Ah technology.

9am. Time to race again. Go.

As I set out for the trip over the bridge AND back again I noticed something strange. Despite running 90% in the 5k I felt fine. My legs weren’t hurting at all! I love running in the cold.

At mile 1 (6:09) I got passed by the guy that finished 3rd in the 5k. He pulled away and I kept him in sight. I was going to have to race till the end. Life is good today!
Mile two was 6:20, then 5:52, then 6:06, then 6:06 (last time up the hill). One mile to go.

Gut check time.

I had worked my way into 4th after being in 7th at the mile. I’d been there for a while. The guy that I was focusing on was staying about 20 seconds in front of me. He seemed to surge when I surged and slowed when I slowed. I needed to get a little closer to preserve my victory.

With one mile to go I knew that what I did in the next 5-6 minutes would be the difference between 1st and 2nd place.

That’s right. It was my choice whether I won it or lost it. MY CHOICE.

I chose to win thank you very much.

I pushed the pace as hard as I could and left it out there. I would run a 5:25 last mile and passed the one dude to finish 3rd in the race. My time was 37:07. The guy in 2nd was the guy who finished 3rd in the 5k but I got within 9 seconds of him in the end.

Over 3 thousand entrants in the 10k and I finished 3rd. There were 350 people that completed the “Double Pump” and I won that. I’ll have to say that of all the races that I’ve ever won with is certainly the biggest. Very happy and proud to do so well.

Next is the Florida Marathon in Clermont on December 19th. The goal is 2:45. That’s 6:18 per mile. I can do THAT in my sleep…

Monday, December 7, 2009

Saturday, November 28th - Sunday December 6th

Saturday - easy run. 4 miles

Sunday - 2 hour bike ride. 5 mile run.

Monday - 12 mile run 10 mile bike.

6:37, 7:01, 7:19, 6:51, 6:39, 7:06, 7:22, 6:51, 6:42, 6:52, 7:29, 6:46. Great run. Didn't feel good but the pace stayed strong. Under 7 minute mile pace. 3 loops of the Fish Camp 4.

Tuesday - walk 4 miles. Achilles sore.

Wednesday - 60 min. indoor bike. Intervals 1 - 2 - 3 - 4- 5 - 6 (2 minutes rest) Running intervals 4Xmile 5:20, 5:20, 5:30, 5:15 (7 miles today)

Thursday - walk 4 miles - lower body lifting

Friday - run 4 miles steady 6:43, 6:45, 7:04, 6:48

Saturday - 15 miles (5 miles walking after race) 5k and 10k race. 5k 1st place 17:57 (5:46, 6:06, 5:35). 10k 3rd place 37:07 (6:09, 6:20, 5:52, 6:06, 6:06, 5:25). double dip 1st place overall.

Sunday - 4 mile walk.