Full Race Report Update

Sunday, October 25, 2015

It’s been a long day. I finished the race in 3:57:21 and will have a full race report including photos tomorrow along with the future plans on this blog site.

Today is also my 18th wedding anniversary so no post tonight my apologies if you were looking for one.

‘Twas the Night Before Marine Corps

Saturday, October 24, 2015

There is truly something about these events that tickle my funny bone. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think the reason is because when you’re a participant in an even like this you’re really a part of something that is much bigger than yourself. I also realize that at the age of 44 I’m still capable. I’m in the arena, on the field of battle, and still an athlete. It’s so different from when I was growing up. Perhaps maturity. Definitely knowledge.

As I prepare to do something for the 10th time tomorrow morning I also realize that what I intend to do isn’t easy. But walking around today and seeing the countless runners and their families I noticed something else that reminded me why I’m here–Marines. See, it was a little over one year ago that my father suffered a stroke. I’m not exaggerating in saying that we almost lost him. Shortly after his amazing recovery (he still battles everyday) I decided it was time. Time to run my 10th marathon. Part of it was for this book. Part of it was to finish the story. But a chunk of it was to run in honor of my dad–a Marine, through and through. It was an easy call.

And then I get here. I see the Marines. I think of the sacrifice that these guys make leaving their families for months on end. Sometimes years. I think of the fallen. The young men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure that we maintain the freedoms that we take for granted everyday. These soldiers lay it on the line in faraway places where others want to kill them. I can’t imagine the life that these men lead looking over their shoulders and never knowing if they’ll make it back home. I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t want to know.

It seems silly in the proper perspective. Tomorrow I will run. 40,000 of us collectively will run. We will shut down a majority of the nation’s capital just to run. Seems simple enough. And it is. It’s putting one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles. Along the way there will be many Marines, serving us water and Gatorade and cheering us on. Along the way we will run past history. We will journey across many landmarks, and will honor the fallen. We will finish at Arlington National Cemetary where thousands who paid the ultimate price make their final resting place. I will pay homage to Sgt. Michael Strank from Franklin, PA as I “take the Iwo” in the final mile. I will pray. I will reflect. I will appreciate all that this means in the bigger picture. It is a race. It is a marathon. It is called “The People’s Marathon.” But it is so much more.

OORAH!

Run on…

Out of My Hands
Friday, October 23, 2015

I feel like I’m getting ready to step onto an airplane and take a trip.  But not for the reasons you might think.  I am taking a trip.  A short one that doesn’t require getting onto an airplane.  No, what I’m feeling is the sense that I am going to be completely at the mercy of circumstances that are beyond my control, like on an airplane.  Oh sure, I’ll still control my speed, my movements and how much drive and passion I put into the run (leg notwithstanding), but all of my preparation (getting to the airport) is done.  I have no say in the traffic.  I have no say in the weather.  And I certainly am bothered by the fact that I have no say in how my hamstring will respond come race day.  Truth of the matter is, I’m still struggling with giving up “the streak” and the reality is I could still go out and run a mile right now and keep it alive.  I am curious to see how my leg might respond to the treatment I’ve given it thus far.  But it’s not worth making it worse.  The curiosity that I possess about whether it will be o.k. will have to wait.  Unfortunately, when I find out I’ll be well on my way into the race.  I’m convinced that no matter what happens I’ll drag myself through the streets and across the finish line if I have to.  I’ve already lowered by finish time expectations, but at the same time my competitive spirit is burning and making me wonder if I’ll be able to back off and keep it slow early on to give myself a chance to get through with as little damage as possible.

I’m also feeling things I haven’t felt in over four years.  April, 2011 is the last time I did this.  That day still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and in some ways has created this, for lack of a better term, regret about how it all finished for me.  Yes, I completed the Boston Marathon.  But I longed for so much more.  I still long for more.  And I hope and pray that my body will respond in a way that allows me to atone for things in the past.  In 42 hours I will step to the starting line.  Like each of the 9 previous times I am full of anxiety, excitement and wonder all at the same time.  I have no idea what will happen.  Well, not true.  I have some idea.  But with such a long distance between me and the finish line, and so much uncertainty there are countless possibilities.

I have been overwhelmed by the curiosity of so many who stopped by to ask me about my hamstring today.  It comforts me knowing that many are interested, many care.  It is those very same people I don’t want to let down.  But I also don’t want to let myself down.  I want to finish, but I want to finish on my terms.  Something tells me I’ll be fine, despite the things that trouble me at the moment.  Until it’s over, I’ll continue to control those things that I can control.  The rest of it is out of my hands.

Run on…

It's actually less at this point...
It’s actually less at this point…
A runner's prayer. Sent to me by Linda Flanagan.
A runner’s prayer. Sent to me by Linda Flanagan.
Encouragement from Bonnie. Note the drawn-on beard!
Encouragement from Bonnie. Note the drawn-on beard!
Perspective from The Rock
Perspective from The Rock

Streak…Over
Thursday, October 22, 2015

153 days.  That’s the number of consecutive days that I have tied my laces, headed out the door (or onto the treadmill; but only a few of those days) and ran.  My attempt to put together a run streak, 365 consecutive days of running at least one mile, will come to an end tomorrow.  I have hit a snafu with this pesky hamstring and unfortunately for “the streak” I need to do the smart thing and rest for whatever time remains before the marathon on Sunday morning.

I can sit here and tell you that it was a difficult decision.  It really wasn’t.  It is definitely an emotional decision.  Anytime you put effort into chasing a goal, it’s hard to fail and not fulfill the expectations of reaching those goals.  At the same time, I said months ago that if I had to relinquish the streak at the expense of training for and finishing this marathon I would do it.  I also said it would get harder the longer the streak went on.  With just under three days remaining before I hit the starting line I looked reality in the face this morning when I tried to do a light and easy 2-miler.  Within 100 yards of leaving the house I could feel the familiar twinge in the back of my leg that caused me to slow down to a pace I really wasn’t happy about.  I questioned whether I should stop right then and there, but I pressed onward.  Like I always do.  My legs are tired.  That’s the stone cold reality. 

I also had time to reflect upon finishing.  My window of opportunity to heal up and be ready is closing and closing fast.  Just a little over 60 hours remain to allow my body to recover from something that is more of a nuisance than anything.  But in just a little over 60 hours that nuisance could become a gargantuan problem.  Simple rationale is what helps me make this an easy decision.

1.  It is hard enough to run 26.2 miles on good legs.  I think back to my 20 and 22 milers a few weeks ago.  My hamstrings were fine then.  It’s a long way to go.

2.  If I keep pushing through this, not only am I going to potentially make Sunday more difficult or even next to impossible to do, but I will continue to damage the muscle and I’d probably be looking at taking several days or eve weeks off after the race. 

3.  I can always begin a new streak.  It sucks that I have to start over after coming along for so long (over 5 months straight), but I have the rest of my life.  Nothing is stopping me from re-starting the streak again once I get through this weekend. 

I gave it a good ride and I’ve enjoyed my journey.  But the real deal is in a few days.  I want to enjoy the end of the journey if at all possible.  If I’m stubborn and try to work through this, I’m only going to regret it later.  It’s time to rest my leg muscles and exercise my brain.  I’m truly sad about this, but I know in my heart this is the right thing to do.  Just like the streak itself, this too, shall pass.

Run on…

But rest for now.


The Homestretch

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I’ve been saying for almost sixteen weeks.  It’s a process.  Part of the process is experiencing many firsts and finals.  First long run, final long run.  First speed work, final speed work.  Today was the latter.  I hit the road for my final speed workout and although my hamstring has felt much better it hasn’t really ever reached 100% in my opinion.  Knowing this I went into the workout slightly tentative because I really wanted to make sure that I head to D.C. in perfect, 100% health.  With 6-400’s on the agenda I hit the track after my two-mile warm-up and began the heart of the workout.  As I began interval number four I could tell that my legs were getting a bit fatigued.  Especially my right leg and although it wasn’t “pulling” it felt tentative.  I decided at that moment that I would slow my pace and finish with 4-400’s.  Unfortunately as I made the final turn before the homestretch of the interval I felt a familiar “twinge” but kind of caught it before it did what it did a week ago.  A little angry at myself I exited the track facing some uncertainty as I head into the final three days of training.  I wonder if I should rest completely.  I am still on a streak.  I feel like I still have time to get it to a point where it won’t be an issue on race day but I am also very uncertain.  How will it respond after double digits?  Is it speed that causes it to do what it is doing or fatigue.  Those are the questions I will wrestle with as I enter the weekend.  In the interim I will load up on ibuprofen and possibly hit the whirlpool and stretch it gently to ensure I do everything I possibly can to make it a non-issue.  There is no doubt in my mind I am prepared for this race, but I have this one nagging little issue that I will have to deal with.  In addition, as the forecast becomes much clearer for the weekend it appears as though I may be battling another issue that is completely out of my control–temperatures.  Steadily the high has crept up to now 69 degrees for race day.  Not the worst, but I would have preferred it to be 10-20 degrees less.  It is what it is, and I will deal with whatever is thrown at me.  I really don’t have any other choice.

In a bit of foreshadowing, I took this video knowing I would video-blog from the final “hard” workout of training.

Run on…

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I’ve been saying for almost sixteen weeks.  It’s a process.  Part of the process is experiencing many firsts and finals.  First long run, final long run.  First speed work, final speed work.  Today was the latter.  I hit the road for my final speed workout and although my hamstring has felt much better it hasn’t really ever reached 100% in my opinion.  Knowing this I went into the workout slightly tentative because I really wanted to make sure that I head to D.C. in perfect, 100% health.  With 6-400’s on the agenda I hit the track after my two-mile warm-up and began the heart of the workout.  As I began interval number four I could tell that my legs were getting a bit fatigued.  Especially my right leg and although it wasn’t “pulling” it felt tentative.  I decided at that moment that I would slow my pace and finish with 4-400’s.  Unfortunately as I made the final turn before the homestretch of the interval I felt a familiar “twinge” but kind of caught it before it did what it did a week ago.  A little angry at myself I exited the track facing some uncertainty as I head into the final three days of training.  I wonder if I should rest completely.  I am still on a streak.  I feel like I still have time to get it to a point where it won’t be an issue on race day but I am also very uncertain.  How will it respond after double digits?  Is it speed that causes it to do what it is doing or fatigue.  Those are the questions I will wrestle with as I enter the weekend.  In the interim I will load up on ibuprofen and possibly hit the whirlpool and stretch it gently to ensure I do everything I possibly can to make it a non-issue.  There is no doubt in my mind I am prepared for this race, but I have this one nagging little issue that I will have to deal with.  In addition, as the forecast becomes much clearer for the weekend it appears as though I may be battling another issue that is completely out of my control–temperatures.  Steadily the high has crept up to now 69 degrees for race day.  Not the worst, but I would have preferred it to be 10-20 degrees less.  It is what it is, and I will deal with whatever is thrown at me.  I really don’t have any other choice.

In a bit of foreshadowing, I took this video knowing I would video-blog from the final “hard” workout of training.

The Anatomy of a Beard
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On the eve of my final speed workout, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss an item that has raised more questions than almost anything as I’ve gone through this training period.  I began my official MCM Marathon training on the morning of July 6 and I decided to grow a “training beard.”  Basically, I decided to put the razor away, except that I would keep it trimmed only on the edges and I would grow out, or as my former boss Jimmy Marker used to say, “raise a beard.”  I’ve grown one for the hockey playoffs nearly every year since 1989 when my team, the Pittsburgh Penguins would make the playoffs.  Other than to display visually the grind of training, I really don’t know why I decided to do it.  I just figured I would do it.  So I have now grown my beard out (raised it) longer than I ever have.  To be honest, there have been periods of time where it was itchy, it got on my nerves, or I really just wanted to shave it off.  But I’ve stuck with it, and truly it doesn’t really bother me much.  I don’t think it looks all that great at this point, and in truth, I cannot wait until the race is over Sunday when I will ceremoniously shave this thing off.  I am curious to see what I look like.  I’m sure I’ll take off several years and will probably look like I’m 18 again.  But in the interim, let’s take a pictorial look at the journey of the beard.

image1 7_10(3) IMG_8790 image6 Week 4 Week 4 complete

Week 5 growth
Week 5 growth

Week 6 Beard

Post-Race Ice Cream (another race tradition)
Post-Race Ice Cream (another race tradition)
Warm-up Selfie
Warm-up Selfie
Quick Selfie Break
Quick Selfie Break
Pre-Run Selfie
Pre-Run Selfie
A Duck Selfie
A Duck Selfie
A Vet Selfie
A Vet Selfie
Fog settling in...
Fog settling in…

9.16_6

Police were everywhere, right from the start.
Police were everywhere, right from the start.

9.23_3 9.23 Beard 9.26_6 10.4_2

Becky got 3rd in her age group. A silver (for grey beard) and a bronze!
Becky got 3rd in her age group. A silver (for grey beard) and a bronze!
Random Beard selfie (future post on "the Beard" coming)
Random Beard selfie (future post on “the Beard” coming)
Dark
Dark

Week 16 Week 16_2 Cold

A Shave

Run on…

And then shave.

A New Milestone!
Monday, October 19, 2015

The whole thing is starting to seem so surreal to me.  The idea that I have blown through 15+ weeks of training so quickly and with very little issue seems to be something short of a minor miracle.  I’m not complaining, I am just very surprised at how smooth things have gone.  I guess it’s an indication that if you put your mind to something, stay focused, and press forward, things seem to take care of themselves.  It’s hard for me to not feel a little strange about the upcoming week, but I suppose given that the last time I did anything similar was over four years ago that is expected.

One unexpected item that sort of sneaked up on me is the minor milestone I set today.  I hadn’t really paid much attention to my annual mileage in a few weeks and when I was logging my miles from this morning (an uneventful 2-miler) I realized that the run put me over the top and established a new all-time high mileage for a calendar year.  Yes, there are still over two months to go.  Amazing to me is that just before I started my attempt at a streak run on May 22 I was actually a little behind pace on reaching 1,000 miles for the year.  But now, having reached 955.2 miles for the year I am on pace to run 1,194 miles.  I have also pushed “the streak” to 150 days!

It’s crazy to think that with these high numbers beginning to pile up that my focus for the remainder of this week will be cutting back, scaling down, and reducing my overall time on my feet.  It’s crunch time and I need to make sure that I give myself the best opportunity to pace well and save every ounce of energy for Sunday at this point.

Quick update before signing off tonight: Turns out I know exactly where my van buddy lives.  On my run over the weekend I happened upon his ride sitting in his driveway.  You know what they say, “keep your friends close…”  Oddly, a day or two after that incident, a local runner was killed while out on a run in the evening.  Seems I wasn’t overreacting the day before.  As I mentioned in that post, it truly is dangerous this time of year.  I am inherently aware of that and take all necessary precautions.  I didn’t know Robert Shultheis, but I have heard plenty about the man and it seems that Salisbury has lost a very good citizen, father and runner.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.

Just how dark is it in the mornings now? This is with my neck light on...
Just how dark is it in the mornings now? This is with my neck light on…