So for the past 16 months (early December 2009) I’ve been training with one main goal in mind, to be totally prepared and ready to PR (personal record) in the Boston Marathon. And now, with less than two weeks to go….I feel like I’m FINALLY ready, and all that’s left is my favorite part of training (the taper), and to perform! But before I can dig into why I LOVE to taper, and provide a recap on this last 16 months….I’d like to set the stage for next week’s blog post with a brief review of some training strategies and milestones (good and bad) that have set me up for what has been the most intense training I’ve done since my college wrestling days. Hopefully you can learn from some of them…or at least smile, enjoy my story, or at the very least laugh a little at my expense:)
- September 6, 2009 – some of my PACER teammates (www.pacerteam.com) and I head to VA Beach to start what is now our annual Labor Day tradition….my goal….to PR (shocking I know) and break 1:30:00 in the 1/2 marathon. 11.9 miles in and things are going perfectly as planned, although I’m feeling it big time…but as I turn the corner onto the final stretch down the boardwalk to the finish (1.2 miles), I feel like I’m hit by a wall….not “the wall” (more on that soon)…but a wall of ocean wind….and with each stride I seem to lose a little more time, a little more steam, and a little more sanity…..I finish at 1:30:17….just over 1 second per mile too slow to meet my goal. I’m pissed to say the least…but motivated to do better next time. Lesson learned: train slightly faster than your “goal pace” in tempo runs and track workouts even it your training plan says otherwise so as to leave yourself a bit of buffer room in case something slightly unexpected comes up…like mother nature.
- September 7, 2009 – after dealing with my frustration in just missing my goal, I realize that I’m in pretty good shape and I just ran a 6:53 / mile for 13.1 miles. In the back of my head I start thinking about my “big plan” in 2010 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I start thinking…heck I “only” have to run a 3:10:59 marathon or better (7:17 / mile pace)…maybe I could actually do this in 2009!
- September 10, 2009 – I settle on the West Palm Beach marathon on December 6, 2009…it promises to be pancake flat, run along the bay….warm in December…and heck I could use a vacation. And what’s more…my grandfather lives close by, so there’s a good chance I can finagle a few “Loudmouths” to join me (that’s what we call those people cheering along the race, and you could say my family are natural Loudmouths). So after 3 additional months of training that included weekly:
- Tempo Runs – workouts intended to get you used to going at race pace (or a little faster in my case), and include a 1-2 mile warm-up, 7-10 miles slightly faster than race pace, and a 1-2 mile cool down
- Track Intervals – workouts intended to push your anaerobic threshold or also called your Lactate threshold (a more indepth view for a different post). The gist here is to get your body physiologically ready to push past it’s level of traditional limits and become more efficient at relying on energy conversion without a sufficient supply of oxygen.
- Long Runs – slowly build the strength and endurance in your cardiovascular fitness, along with your muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, etc…..but at least as important….your mental endurance and focus to keep plugging along.
- Recovery Runs – ideal for loosening back up…getting rid of tightness, cramping, and (although there’s mixed research here) any lactic acid (derivative of anaerobic training) build-up.
- December 6, 2009 – RACE DAY!! I’m ready….it’s 6 am and about 60 degrees in South Florida already. It’s a small field with 600 marathoners and about 2000 half marathoners. I line-up on the starting line and ironically enough I see an old college friend line-up next to me…I took it as a good sign. The first 17 miles go off like clock-work, everything is going as planned…..and as I run the next 5k (3.1 miles) past some of the half marathoners who were in their home stretch (this was one of those dreaded courses where you actually have to go past the finish line and then run another 6 miles out in the boonies) I find myself feeling great and so excited that I start cheering for them out loud. Some are caught off guard…who cheers for other racers while racing!!?? But before I knew it, there was a pack around me, riding my energy…and it only lifted my spirit further (getting chills writing this right now)! As I cross mile twenty and go past the grandstand and finish line….I hear my name over the loud speaker….I pump my fist in the air….I’m ahead of pace….this is mine!
And then it happened…..at mile 22 I was expecting to see my loudmouths (my two sisters, my mom, and my “pre-wife”…yeah, that’s what I used to call her….because fiancée is a stupid word)…but no sign of them. I hit the wall and the wheels started falling off….the sun is starting to blaze and blinding off the ocean bay to my right…I’m all alone…I’m exhausted….and I’ve still got over 3 miles. I watch my GPS watch as my pace goes from 7:10, to 7:25, to 7:40, to 7:55…and I start to panic…and then pray. I hit mile 24.2 and with two miles to go I have exactly 15 minutes to do it….I’m worrying big time….and then I hear them “ERRIIIICCCCC!!!!” The loudmouths had come through…..my sister Amy and “pre-wife” Amy were there….they picked me up….believed in me…reminded me of my goals…reminded me of why I was doing this…and ran the next mile with me (purses in hand)….I got back on track…and with less than a mile left I could see the finish. I stumbled along, my body screaming….I could hear the grandstands….I could hear the loud speaker…..the tunnel of fans started (chills again)….I could see the clock….I crossed the finish line at 3:10:05 (3:10:00 net time)…pointed to the sky to say thanks…stumbled to the aid station and leaned on the fence…the emotions poured out of me…I began sobbing….my other sister came rushing up and gave me a hug….the paramedics were nervous, and she kindly smiled at them and said “it’s ok…he does this”! After I finally collected myself, I went over to my Mom who had been met by Amy & Amy….I gave them all hugs and thanked them…and the calls started rushing in from family and friends….I had done it….and it will forever go down as one of the most memorable, exhilarating, and grateful days in my life! It and all that went along with it has set me up to push through some hard times and be prepared for what lies ahead……9 days in counting….bring it on!