Let the Taper Begin!
Sunday, October 4, 2015

To call the conditions anything less than ideal today would be a huge understatement.  I noticed almost immediately that when the wind gusted to nearly 20 mph it created a dilemma that I’ve rarely had to deal with during training.  But it all depended on which direction I was going, which is why I really would have liked to go do my beach route.  With winds coming predominantly out of the north I would have had almost an entire 22 mile run with wind at my back.  Not to be.  When I was running north when the wind gusted it really provided me with a lot of resistance.  Today was all about battling the conditions and finishing what I set out to do.  The final long run would not be an easy one, but I did hold myself back and try to run consistent miles.  And because I was on “home turf” I broke the run up into a 15-miler where I finished at the house and provided myself with an opportunity to get some Gatorade, water and gels (I took a 3:00 minute break) and then finished the final 7-miles.

Considering the conditions I would have to say mission accomplished.  Although not perfect, check these splits out:

Mile  Time
1        8:12
2        8:44
3        8:45
4        8:33
5        8:31
6        8:50
7        8:47
8        8:40
9        8:48
10      8:53
11      8:51
12      9:00
13      8:42
14      8:50
15      8:40
16      8:37
17      8:39
18      8:48
19      9:08
20      8:53
21      9:32

Double Deuce

I don’t care where you’re from.  That’s a good looking run.  Given my finish time and yesterday’s post where I ran a “different kind of marathon” (4.2 miles on Saturday and 22 today) for charity, my “marathon” finish time was 3:49:19.  Again, not bad considering the conditions, and yes, I had a long rest after the first 4.2 but I also had no crowd support, no water stations and no real incentive other than to just get my miles in, so I’ll take it.  The thing that stands out for me in looking at the graph above is how much more straight it is compared to both of my previous 20-milers.  As I enter the final phase of training, and the final 20 days it is very encouraging.

In addition to the encouraging times, graphs and outcome of today I am also encouraged by the soreness in my body.  Although I am sore (you don’t run 22 miles without getting sore), I know it could be a lot worse.  I feel like I am stronger at this point in my training than any of the previous 9 marathons.  I may not be as fast.  Well, I know I’m not as fast.  But I’m stronger.  One thought kept popping into my head today that I could not shake.  Even though I was just running, it dawned upon me that at the age of 44 I am an athlete.  What I did today isn’t easy.  It takes a lot of determination and intestinal fortitude.  I have no problem feeling proud of myself for gutting it out in the conditions and pushing myself through to the finish.  I know I don’t want to do this any more.  I realize how difficult it is, but for now I’m still doing it.  I have a finish line to reach in three weeks.  I’ll let the future take care of itself.  Today was pure guts.  I’m better for having gone through it.  Hated it when it was happening, but stronger for my efforts.  In 20 days I’m certain it will pay off.

Run on…

NOTES:  Yesterday morning this site surpassed 4,000 visitors!  Thank you again!  It took 19 days to go from 3,000 to 4,000.  It still amazes me that people are interested in what I’m doing, but I’m glad you are along for the ride.  It is you who drives me.  Four Seconds from Boston is ready to be released!!  I will be posting the cover tomorrow night and my incredible endorsements on Tuesday night with a formal release taking place 10 days early this Wednesday at noon!!!

A Different Kind of “Marathon”

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What a week it’s been!  Going into it, I had expected it to be the most difficult week of training.  It hasn’t turned out exactly that way.  But it has been a difficult week.  My plan for weeks was to run a very unique final long run before beginning my taper.  I scheduled this long run to take place tomorrow and my thought was to run from the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk to the Ocean City, MD Boardwalk.  The distance:  26.2 miles.  The length of the marathon.  I came up with the idea about a month ago after running a few 20 milers from Delaware Seashore State Park to the Ocean City Inlet.  It was another example of me simply pushing the envelope and creating a memorable event.

As the week began, however, there was talk of the pending storm system and potential landfall of Hurricane Joaquin.  By Wednesday morning I had decided to switch my run from Sunday to Saturday because the forecast seemed to be the worst Sunday.  There was still a lot of uncertainty with the storm and as the week wore on, I again switched the run back to Sunday due to the changing forecast.  Unexpectedly the hurricane forecast improved, but it was the N’oreaster that has been plaguing the coast that has forced me to cancel my “boardwalk to boardwalk marathon” and do my final long run right here at home.

Part of my “reward” plan was something I found online called “Races for Awareness”.  The site is full of virtual races where you donate money and run a predetermined race.  Part of your fee includes a race medal.  When I originally planned on this Boards to Boards Marathon I did so by registering myself for the Boston Wicked Strong Marathon.  The rules are pretty open and you don’t have to do the total distance on the same day.  My plan, of course, was to do the distance in the same day.  But given all the changes and modifications to this week I decided to run 4.2 miles today and finish the “marathon” tomorrow with a 22 miler.  That actually keeps me on the regular training schedule and doesn’t risk injury at this late juncture of training.  That was a recurring thought for me on today’s run.  I am just three weeks away as of tomorrow, and so far I have been able to stay somewhat healthy.  The goal, always, is to get to the starting line in good health.  That is my plan, just like my plan for tomorrow is to complete the “marathon”.  Not that time is important, but I’m 35 minutes, 25 seconds and 4.2 miles into the “race.”

Tomorrow morning I will complete the distance and continue to stay slow.  The goal is to cover the distance in my final preparation for the real marathon; not this different kind of marathon.

Run on…


Friday Flashback #2
Friday, October 2, 2015

Two weeks ago I talked about doing a weekly Friday Flashback, only to promptly forget to post one last week.  I suppose its not the end of the world, but this week I remembered, so here it is.  A bit about this post before I post it.  This was one of the last posts I put on my blogspot page 3 1/2 years ago.  I had gotten away from blogging and when reading this I realized just how much running had become a struggle.  I believe I was burned out a bit after chasing Boston for several years and then eventually making it there.  It would be a few weeks after this post that I would get an interview for my current job in Salisbury, Maryland and life would take a major turn pushing running further back in the priority order.  Interestingly, as I read this post I see that even though I was struggling I knew I could turn it back around.  The question I asked myself today after reading this is, “Can I truly say I’m back?”  That’s a complicated answer.  I’m running mileage like I’ve never seen before, posting 3 of my best 4 months all-time over the last three months.  But I still am not running with the speed I used to run.  It’s close, but still off.  I’ve written it off as age and father time catching up with me.  But as far as pure running, I can say that yes, I’m back to the mental space I was in roughly 4-5 years ago.  Isn’t that what really matters?

Here’s the Flashback!

Run on…. (but read this first)

Sunday, April 8, 2012
No Reason to Question, Just Go With It

It has been about eleven months since I’ve “blogged” and in that time my well documented struggles have continued. So much, in fact, that I even questioned whether or not I wanted to even continue running. I am not sure how I got into this funk. I don’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve been in this funk and I don’t even know why it’s important to even ask those questions any longer. The fact of the matter is that I can look back at my running logs as well as posts here on this blog and realize that it has been an almost constant struggle for over a year.

But perhaps I am turning the corner a bit. Perhaps. I have been able to string together a couple of good runs here and there. I have been able to continue to push through when I’ve wanted to quit. I still work hard to excel and I’ve even run a couple of early spring races.

Another turning point for me has been those races. No, I haven’t done particularly well. I was always able to challenge for a sub-20:00 5k and in each of the last two races I have posted 21:31 and 21:20 respectively. I don’t know why, but my speed has left me. My endurance has left me. But what I have learned through running tells me that it doesn’t have to be that way. I believe there is a possibility that I am simply burned out. So I have decided to try and go back to running for the joy that it brings me. My ultra-competitive side often causes me to struggle with the concept but I have tried to run without worry of time. I have tried to run purely for the joy of the run. I have made it work a few times. Other runs I still end with disappointment because I’m not as fast as I feel I should be.

I believe in my heart I can get back to where I was. I’m simply not at that level at the moment and I need to give myself time to get back to that level. I realize it won’t happen overnight and that is the key. I have tried to stop questioning everything and simply go with it. Let the runs take me where they will and be happy that I am still out there. I am still putting one foot in front of the other and I am still moving forward, even if I feel like I’m moving backward. It’s been a rough year. But the future still seems bright and I know that good things lie in front of me. Acceptance of where I am is the first step to getting back to the me I wish to be.

My Forecast
Thursday, October 1, 2015

It seems completely appropriate, given the recent hype surrounding Hurricane Joaquin, for me to engage in a forecast of my own.  Not whether or not a major hurricane will make landfall along the east coast.  Not how much rain we will receive or whether or not schools will be closed on Monday.  No, my forecast has to do with looking into my crystal ball, running the various models and predicting a finish time for my Marine Corps Marathon which will be run in just a touch over 23 days from now.

I would have liked to wait until after my final long run this weekend, but I guess I’m getting a little caught up in all this forecasting going on, which looks something like this at the moment:

Hurricane Forecast

Much like my weather friends say quite often, there is a lot of unpredictability with this finish time.  Oddly, one of the single most influential factors for me on race day will be —  you guessed it, the weather.  A swing of 10 degrees can make all the difference in the world.  Any kind of humidity, or in my personal case, sunshine, and the day can be virtually ruined.  One of the other factors at play for this particular marathon is the number and size of hills.  Since I haven’t run on much in the way of hills, I am a bit concerned.  There are a few inclines on the maps I’ve seen where over a mile the ascent is between 100 and 150 feet.  That may not seem like much, but it can have a lasting effect on one’s legs depending on where the hill is at on the course.  Not to mention the amount of effort put into getting over that hill.  The steepest hill on the course actually is the final ascent up to the Iwo Jima Memorial where the finish line sits.

My forecast also includes other unknowns, but on the more positive side.  Invariably the effort on race day feels much easier because of adrenaline.  There is a vast difference between heading out in the dark at 6:00 a.m. in Salisbury with nobody watching and heading down past the Lincoln Memorial mid-morning on race day with thousands of other runners and spectators.  The important thing to remember is to go a little slower than you feel like you can go.  Easier said than done, but this is one factor where time can easily be banked and then given up later when the inevitable slow-down takes place.  The big question mark is all about determining how slow that will be.

So after factoring all these things at play I thought I would prep you for my final forecast with some pace per/mile splits and what they would mean in terms of a finish time.  If I were to run every mile consistently at exactly 9:00 minutes/mile, my finish time would be 3 hours, 55 minutes, 48 seconds (3:55:48).  Here is that pace and finish time along with a select few others:

Per Mile      Finish Time
9:00             3:55:48
8:45             3:49:15
8:30             3:42:42
8:15             3:36:58
8:00             3:29:36
7:55             3:27:25
7:50             3:25:14
7:47             3:23:55 (*this would be a Boston Qualifier based on my race day age next year of 45 years old)

Given my knowledge of where I am physically and taking into account my two previous 20 mile runs which averaged 9:06 and 8:51 respectively, along with my previous 12-miler (8:09) and 10-miler (7:55), it is safe to assume that I am very capable of a 3:40.  Is it likely?  Probably not.  I’m thinking I’ll end up going out too fast, holding a fairly fast past through 16 miles or so, and then have a disappointing final 10k-plus.  Which is exactly what I hope to avoid by the way.  If I’m smart I’ll try to run a steady 8:15/mile pace throughout and finish around 3:29:00.  My prediction is that I’ll end up closer to a 3:45, and I’m giving myself a three-minute add-on due to unknown course conditions, etc.  My prediction is that I will come in around 3:47:55.

What’s your prediction?  If you’ve been following me regularly, I’m curious to know what you think.  Leave your predicted finish time below in a message. If anyone guess my finish time within four seconds, I’ll send you a $50 gift card.  Thanks for playing, and,

run on…


Feeling the Squeeze
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The final day of September has arrived and with it a fatigued version of Vince.  Despite my plan to get up nice and early and hit the roads to get one of my last few long speed workouts done, I hit the snooze button one too many times and because of time constraints I was forced to push my run until after work.  I’m really feeling the fatigue of a runner’s body worked to the bone.  I knew going into this, because experience has taught me, that I would have to break myself down before the final build-up leading to race day.  That apex of training will come this weekend.  Right around the same time that a potential hurricane will throw a wrench into my plans for a nice long Sunday run.  Hurricane Joaquin is churning near the Bahamas as I write this with a lot of uncertainty over the next 3-4 days.  Some computer models have it coming directly over Salisbury which causes me concern beyond messing up my training run.  Having stayed put during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which brushed by us with gusts of 60-70 mph, I have to admit that I am not interested in getting a direct hit by what appears to be a stronger storm-at the moment.

With the uncertainty I am navigating the remainder of the week, and with my weekend plans originally putting me on another coastline run Sunday, I have, at the moment, pushed my long run back to Saturday.  It appears that even if the hurricane doesn’t come this way, there should be enough rain and moisture to knock out my baseball games for the weekend.  The brunt of the potential storm also is not forecast to affect the coast until Sunday, so pushing my final long run back a day seems to be the best solution.

Given the fact that my long speed run today, which was 7 miles (a bit shorter than forecast; pun intended, due to fatigue) was done about 12 hours later and my long run now being scheduled 24 hours earlier it really causes a bit of a squeeze on training during my final very tough week.  Despite the fact that this does put things in a state of disarray I am almost glad for it.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again–on race day you have to be ready for the unexpected.  Dealing with a bit of uncertainty and some adversity is actually a good thing.  I don’t feel good about sleeping in today, but I am happy that I persevered and fought to get this run in after a long day at work.  It was interesting to me that morning runs are now done largely in the dark just prior to a sunrise and after work today I ran until the sunset and then largely in the dark on the opposite end of the day.  Seems I’m getting squeezed on daylight too.

Run on…

Hope this changes over the next 4 days.

Hope this changes over the next 4 days.

Hello October!

Hello October!

My Hockeyville Story
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Hockeyville story began during the 1982-83 National Hockey League season when I was flipping through the channels and came across a Pittsburgh Penguins game on WPGH-TV.  I was immediately mesmerized by the voice and descriptions of Penguins play-by-play man and Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Lange.  His signature catch-phrases after Penguins goals have made him an icon among Penguins fans for years.  I was hooked immediately.  So much, in fact, that when I entered college I did so as an English Communications major hoping to be a sports broadcaster just like Lange.  Although that didn’t work out quite the way I expected, that’s a story for another day.  It was Lange who inevitably got me interested in the sport of ice-hockey.  I had seen the Miracle on Ice in 1980, but Lange made the non-Olympic version of the sport seem much more interesting than it was, especially for a Penguins team that was a true dumpster fire that season.  My favorite players quickly became Rick Kehoe and Doug Shedden.  Pat Boutette was a favorite of mine if only for his name.

At that time, growing up in the Greater Johnstown suburb of East Conemaugh, unless your name was Ed Simmons, you didn’t play ice hockey.  That was a sport played only by a few high schools in all of Western Pennsylvania and although the sport was popular because of Johnstown’s rich hockey history it was more of a niche sport for our area.

It goes without saying that the arrival of one Le Magnifique, Mario Lemieux, the next season had a significant impact on the sport of hockey in all of Western Pennsylvania and only grew my personal love for the game.  Even so, I hadn’t really ever been on the ice despite my love for listening to and watching games on television.  There was also the iconic movie Slap Shot, filmed in Johnstown in 1976-77 that put Johnstown on the hockey map world wide.

Fast forward to 1995 when I had “grown up” and moved out on my own.  I was living in Somerset, Pennsylvania whenI met former Johnstown Chief and my friend Rick Boyd. Rick was part owner of a new ice rink in Somerset, IceTRACS, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  It didn’t take long for me to get involved as an adult, finally able to buy my own skates and begin attending public skating sessions.  That led to playing in the adult league and eventually to Rick recommending that I take up officiating.  It was one of the single most influential things that has happened in my life.  Over the course of the next twenty years I worked my way up through the ranks of the amateur officiating world spending countless days and nights at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena along with dozens of others.  The sport of ice hockey had become an obsession for me and a way of life.  It has provided me with so many opportunities, memories, and lifelong friendships that can never be replaced.  Beyond that brief conversation with Rick back in 1996 I have enjoyed many good and bad times in the rinks, officiating games with men I call my best friends for life:

Todd Euen, Matt Wincer, Corey Stahl, Dave Crichton, Jesse Shoff, Brian Shoff, Joe Slis, Lou Polonkey, Steve Polonkey, PJ Pfahler, Kyler Speice, Mark “Frog” Kadas, Tom Rizzo, Noel Graham.  There are many others.  157 partners in all over 19+ years in this game.  For those not named, who I may have missed I apologize.

So many memories too countless to name, but when I think of coaches and players and fans and the guys who work the rinks and clean the ice, it always makes me feel blessed to have been a part of something much greater than myself.  I have so many stories about days gone by.  I wish I had the time to write them all here.   I still drive 5 hours one way to “come back home” and work with my friends in the places I still call home.  I know that eventually I will not make that trek any longer and I know that my time wearing the stripes will end too.  But I will always feel that I am a small part of Hockeyville, thanks to the dozens of people who helped me be a part of the game that we all know and love.

I was unable to make the trip north for this once in a lifetime event tonight, but know that I’ll be watching on television, proud to call my hometown Hockeyville, U.S.A.  Have a great night Johnstown.

And run on…

Hockeyville 2

One Tough Week
Monday, September 28, 2015

Day #85 of training started off week #13 of 16 weeks of training.  It began this morning with a very bright moon overhead on a simple 3-mile run.  It will be the easiest of 7 runs I will complete this week.  Tapering will begin a week from today which means I will reach the apex of training come Sunday.  As I began to look at my week ahead I see that my weekly running total should reach 52 miles for the week, assuming I don’t miss any miles or have to reduce any of my runs. To put that into perspective, that weekly run total would rank very high among some of my highest monthly totals and would surpass 9 of my monthly totals from last calendar year (2014).  This morning’s run also re-established yet another all-time best monthly total that I should add to tomorrow and Wednesday morning eclipsing 150 miles for the second straight month.  I have now strung together four consecutive 100+ mile months and three of my four highest monthly totals have come in July, August and September of this year.

Needless to say I am racking up some high miles compared to the past thirteen years I’ve been formally running.  The question becomes whether or not I have produced quality runs.  As I was reviewing my book on a final read through I was very surprised to see that I had done a 20-mile training run in 2 hours, 36 minutes as I was preparing for the Chicago Marathon in 2009.  If you recall, my past two 20-milers have come in at 2:57 and 3:01.  I suppose I can write off some of it to age and the fact that I’m just not the runner I was six years ago.  Still, it makes me wonder just how ready I will be when race day arrives in just over 26 days.

What I know is that before the taper comes, I have some very hard work to put in this week as I make the final difficult preparations for race day.  My race program has reminded me this week to establish a race day goal that I’m confident I can accomplish, a secondary goal that I think I’ll probably reach and a best-of-all-possible-worlds finish time that may be a stretch.  Given some real thought, here are those three goals that I’ve set:

Confident – 3:55 (I’ve been using the break-4:00 hour plan and have outdone all the paces so far)
Probably – 3:45 (This would be at a pace I’ve run in training and it may even be a little slow.  Unsure of hills but adrenaline should carry me to this)
Best of all worlds – 3:30 (My BQ time is a 3:20. To miss that by ten minutes would be an amazing feat given my current fitness levels)

So there you have it.  I’ve published my goals, and my expectations.  Perhaps a little early, but as I’ve entered my final tough week, I might as well go for broke and let it all hang out.

Run on…