Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wrightsville Beach Marathon, a success story of sorts

 As race morning dawned, I was once again feeling confident with my training and hopeful that the hip would hold up for me. I made the drive to the finish area where I met up with Laura and we caught the shuttle back to the start a few miles away at the beach. The temperature was about 10 degrees warmer than forecast but I was hoping that it wouldn't rise too much as they day went on and that it would remain overcast although now there was no rain  projected.

 Laura went off to warm up for the half marathon and I just did a very slow 1/2  mile jog on my own, just enough to loosen the hip up a bit.  I have to say this race had the best music to pump me up as we made our way to the start.  Nothing like a little Master of Puppets to get the adrenaline going.

  Finally the race started and I went out as planned at a conservative pace for the first mile, content to let anyone that wanted to blaze by me to help themselves. Target pace was anything better than 8:23 per mile and I wanted to be 20 to 30 seconds slower than that for the first mile. I accomplished that with an 8:56  and was happy that so far the hip flexor was just a bit of slight discomfort and the piriformis was fine.

 I picked up the pace a bit as the sky begin to get a bit lighter now. I was a bit too skippy for mile 2 so I backed off the pace again. Whoops too much. Finally mile 4 was right where I wanted it to be. Everything was feelling good and it was time to just settle in. Mile 5 was right where I wanted it. For the next 10 to 15 miles I wanted to be in the 8:15 to 8:20 range and gradually make up the time lost in the first 5 by the halfway point. As long as I was running within my range I should have no problems holding the pace because the course was very flat making it easy to run steady.

  The miles clicked by rather uneventfully and by mile 10 I had made up the deficit and shortly after that we marathoners split from the halfers at about mile 11. Of course the field thinned out quite a bit from there but still plenty of other runners around. I had hope to have a one minute cushion by the 13.1 poiint and I nailed that. Mile 13 in 1:48:12 and at that pace if there had been a 13.1  sign at that pace I would have been almost exactly 1:49 ! Yep things were looking good.

 The next mile was along the beach road and they had the course coned off for the runners in a very narrow area with the drains to send rain water to the ocean so I was being very careful. I caught up to some slower runners and finally I just had to make a quick move outside the cones to get around them before relaxing again. I must have relaxed too much or fallen asleep because that mile 14 was about 25 seconds too slow and that kind of made me mad so I pushed the pace back up and mile 15 was right back where I needed it but with that much of my cushion was gone.

 I was beginning to feel a bit warm now but thankfully my wish for it remain overcast was coming true. I was getting sweaty as it was still quite a bit humid too and I was thinking I should have opted for a singlet instead of the Umstead 100 shirt I was wearing.  Soon after we were back along the wide open Military cutoff road, the most boring part of the course but I was moving well and gradually passing by slower runners. My pace was still very close to where I needed it . I was slowing a little but only a few seconds per mile.

 Around 18 I still had a 30 second cushion and I was thinking now, just get to Laura and she can pull me to the end. Before the race we had planned that after she ran the half that she would try and meet me in Landfall at about the 20.5 mile mark. Fatigue was starting to set in but I was still moving well and close to pace. And then just as the course turned back into Landfall and the 20 mile mark, I somehow I had slowed down too much and when I saw the 8:47 I cursed out loud to myself as now I had zero cushion left.

 I immediately pushed the pace back up and begin looking ahead for Laura. When I did push the pace though I was getting a side stitch so I was trying to hold on and make the stitch go away.

 I can't  tell you how happy I was to see Laura at almost exactly the 20.5 mile mark running towards me. She checked on my condition and I told her I was dead on pace but no cushion and I had  a stitch.  She took over with her normal pep talk telling me how great this was and that I had this. I wish I had been feeling her confidence and excitement at that point. That mile 21 was great as I dropped back to 8:18. The 3:40 was still there but the wheels were coming off. That mile felt much too hard and although I was trying to stay with her I was now breathing and working much too hard. I was giving it everything I had but slowed to a disappointing 8:49 mile and there was not going to be a comeback.

 It really wasn't all that funny at the time but  we had some great laughs about it after the race. Over the next few miles Laura would not give up on me and was encouraging  all the way. I knew that the BQ was over now but she wouldn't let me give up. Each mile got slower and harder but as bad as it hurt I wouldn't back off the effort and as she would tell me something positive I was mumbling  , nope it's over, I'm done. Still she constantly reminded me how I never give up and as bad as I wanted to just walk it in by mile 24 I was not about to let her down so I trudged on. And when she would tell me to surge I would still do it for as long as I could which by now was not but a few seconds. before I was shuffling again

 We finally reached that last mile and she is still bouncing with excitement and telling me that it is still a great time. I am so thankful she is there and I just want the pain to end but I am still putting in surges to try and hold the pace until finally we made the final turn with 200 yards to go to the finish line. I had expected her to leave me at 25.5 and take a short-cut  over to the finish line but at the last minute she had decided to stick with me so we crossed the line together.  I just wanted to collapse at that point as we hugged and I shed a few tears as I thanked her for being there for me.

 My friend Mark Manz was there at the finish and the three of us helped me hobble over to the big tent to get some food and sign me up for a massage. It was while we were finally sitting down that Laura who was still so excited and raving about how great I did, asked me if there was some way we could find another race soon for me to  try for 3:40 again qualify for Boston. I came so close and if I could just stay healthy now it was going to happen. And that was the moment when I remembered and the reaction  I got from her next was priceless. I told her, we didn't need to find another race because I had just qualified by almost 7 minutes ! Because of the timing of my birthday and the 2016 Boston race day I could quailify as a 60 year old and I only needed a 3:55 ! After that I think everyone near us in that tent knew I was going to Boston !

 . I am so happy to finally have the pressure off and know I am going to get to go back and even better that my most amazing training partner who is a huge part of the reason I am going will be there too ! But that is a long ways off so we'll talk about all that much later Just know that I am not going to settle for that 3:48. It has gotten me to Boston but I truly believe that if I can stay healthy now and build from this level of fitness that the marathon pr will happen. But that has to wait until the Fall because now it's time to get ready for the next big thing. Western States training has officially begun this weekend !

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wrightsville Beach Marathon Preview part 2 or the X Factor

 As I mentioned in the last post, it was Stiner Massage that got me back to running again and hopefully has finally solved the issue with recurring hamstring issues I have had since 2008.

  I was able to successfully complete the OBX marathon in a run/walk of 4:45 but that is a long way from being able to pr 4 months later !  I had a long way to go and a lot of work to do to even think about the possibility. But as most of you know I am stubborn and determined and I am surely not afraid of working hard towards my goals and making it hurt.

 I was already nearly back to my normal mileage and ready to add some real training into the mix but my confidence was low that I would be able to get anywhere near the condition I needed to be. When I signed up for WB I was hoping to start the training from a 3:40 to 3:45 condition but now I was starting back at near zero. The prospects really were bleak  and to make things even worse I found myself ready to enter this shortened marathon buildup minus any of my training partners.

 And that is where the X Factor comes in. Well actually a bit earlier in a way. I have had the pleasure of calling Laura Frey my friend for many years now and we have been big supporters of each others running for all that time but had never run together and I didn't really imagine we ever would. For those of you that don't know her, she is an elite masters competitor and is currently training over 100 miles per week consistently as she prepares for Boston and these are not slow easy miles ! Her slow easy pace is faster than my tempo pace and she does 20 milers sometimes at my 5k race pace ! No one I know is more dedicated to their running than she is and I am inspired daily by her commitment every single day no matter what the conditions to get in her workouts and she does it while still deserving mother of the year award for how she takes care of her  3 kids.

  It just happened that she was injured with a stress fracture while I was out with my hamstring and during that period we were pushing and encouraging one another in our cross training as we tried to maintain as much fitness as possible. Once we were both finally able to run again the support for each other was still there and growing stronger. I think their was divine intervention going on but for whatever reason she stepped up the support as if knowing instinctively that I needed someone to believe in me and help push me to achieve my dream.

 And so there I was in early November full of doubt but  determined I was going to give everything I possibly could to this training cycle ready to push my self as hard as I could. Miles, tempo runs marathon pace runs whatever it took I was going to endure. I stepped up the already hard crosstraining working the glutes, the core and doing  even more with the weights.

 So I was still surprised when Laura agreed to run with me one Friday. it just happened that Friday was her easy day on the schedule and her easy pace just happened to be the pace I was hoping to run my tempo runs. I was a bit nervous that I would not be able to even stay with her and I was afraid that after one run she would figure out I was just too slow for her and it would be a one time deal.

 Much to my surprise and pleasure we had a wonderful time together and I nailed the workout. We had already started looking ahead to the next one and have now been meeting just about every week since then on what we call Fun Fridays, which are the highlight of my running week. We have done fartleks and repeats of half miles and miles and even marathon race pace runs.

 Now you know I am not afraid to make it hurt but I have never been pushed so hard in my life. On most of these runs by the end I am nauseous, having stitches and most of the time end up dry heaving !  But she is so patient with me and is constantly encouraging me along. I know if I had been doing these workouts alone I would have backed off the pace  but she believes in me so much that I didn't want to let her down  so I would never bail on a workout no matter how much it hurt and as a result I would reach a new level I didn't think possible each week. It was just so wonderful to have someone that if she desired could leave me in a cloud of dust at a moments notice but she instead runs along monitoring my stride and breathing and making me feel that my success was almost more important to her than to myself. And best of all it really was fun and we are always laughing even when about to throw up !

 And in addition to the running she is my # 1 cheerleader and refuses to let me  get down when I feel frustrated or doubting myself. In other words she has been the most awesome friend and training partner I  could ever hope for and know matter the outcome this Sunday I know I would not be anywhere nearly  as well prepared as I am thanks to her .

 I had originally wanted to be in shape for a pr of sub 3:35 but I am going to go conservative and just go for the BQ of 3:40 which is another thing. All my desire to go to Boston again was goneafter events beyond my control  but I still had a burning desire to go for the time and the pr and that was what driving me. But now thanks to  Laura I am determined to go to Boston one more time and I am already saving up for the trip !

Wrightsville Beach Marathon Preview or why am I here.

  Lets go into the way back machine for just a few minutes to explain why I am running this race in the first place. Old friends and followers probably know most of this but here is a chance to catch up with the story.

  I have qualified  for Boston 3 times and run there twice in 2006 and 2011. In each of those qualifiers   I only got in by less than 1 minute !  After my last time qualifying in Sept of 2010 they made it harder for me to qualify by 5 minutes even though I moved up an age group. I had trained as hard as I could and ran well but it now seemed impossible thatI I would be able to improve as I got older so I put that behind me and planned to concentrate on my ultrarunning goals.

 But then in summer of 2012 I began to train with Amy to try and get her in and it just so happened that she needed a 3:40, the same as I needed. It was during the training and workouts with her that I realized how well I was handling the workouts and my confidence was restored that I may yet have another Boston in me and possibly even a pr.

  Well the target was Tobacco Road in March of 2013 and I gave it a good effort but came up short. I went back to ultra's for a few months and then my next attempt was in October at Wineglass. I  had suffered  a hamstring injury  in August but gave it a shot anyway. After holding pace for 16 miles the leg gave out on me and I  ran/walked/ limped it in.

I recovered quickly and training went well for my next target at Myrtle Beach in Feb 2014. I was well prepared and on pace through mile 19 when I turned into the 30+ mph headwinds and slowly felt my race once again going away from me. Another solid effort but much too short once again. I was already committed to ultra's again so after a great Spring with a 100 mile pr and a 6th place finish in my first multi day with 211 miles I was ready to focus on an early Fall last attempt to get into the 2015 Boston. By now it was really less about Boston since my major incentive for going again no longer was there for the 2015 race. Now it was all about the time and defying the aging process.

 And so, in great shape and ready to begin the focused training for the Erie Marathon in early September  I was hit once again with a hamstring injury while out on an easy 6 miler  the first of August !!! Once again I had to start over. By the planned race day the leg was so messed up I couldn't even run to the mailbox so I had to cancel the race. And to make matters worse I had a trip of a lifetime planned to run a marathon in Verona Italy on Oct.

 Enter John Stiner at Stiner Massage. He had been treating my friend Laura Frey and she had told him
about my injury. He contacted me and said he was pretty sure he knew why I  kept hurting the hamstrings and said he was sure he could help. In desperation I went to see him and the next day I was able to run 3 miles  with half the pain I had for the previous 2 months. and with another visit and religiously practicing the exercises he gave me I was able to run/walk the full marathon in Verona and 4 weeks later at OBX.

 Which brings us to getting ready for Wrightsville Beach now and my goal of running a pr for the marathon 9 years after setting my pr and at age 59. Crazy thinking huh ? But that is for another blogpost. So stay tuned.