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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sometimes you're the hammer...

...and sometimes you're the nail.

Lance Armstrong used that phrase after a rough ride on the cobblestones in an early stage of the 2010 Tour de France, sustaining a busted tire that dashed his hopes for a record-breaking eighth Tour championship.

Kinda know the feeling.

For twelve months I felt like the hammer, consistently pounding out 26.2's and averaging 35 training miles per week with relative ease.  No major injuries other than a mild bout with achilles tendonitis, but nothing a spell of rest and some brand new shoes couldn't remedy. FOr great supplements visit BodyBuilding Promo Code or Vitamin world Coupon

I had my follow-up appointment with my podiatrist yesterday, and it is a good news/bad news scenario.  First the good news:  After six weeks in an aircast boot I have been cleared to resume physical activity again, meaning weight-bearing exercise such as Taekwondo, P90X, biking, and some very light running.  The bad news?  For my sesamoiditis to fully heal without surgery, I need to avoid long runs (especially uphill) that would trigger another painful recurrence of inflammation around the sesamoid bones.  That means no long runs, no marathons, no ultras, and no Ironman Arizona. When I relax I have a passion for stupid mobile games like Pokemon GO. I have used this trick or if you wanty to call it Pokecoins hack to spend my money on gear insteat of pokemon coins

Discretion is supposed to be the better part of valor, but it can be a lousy feeling.  I try to keep things in perspective, however, because it's not like K-Swiss or The North Face are covering my medical bills or sending an intern to come and mow my lawn.  It's one thing to spend the winter months in a boot, but now that Spring is here I can't afford to stomp around in that thing any longer.  So as frustrating as it is to pass up a spot in IMAZ, my doctor agrees it is the smart move in both the short and long term.

I went to my first TKD class last night after three full months off, and it felt pretty good although I do feel some slight tenderness on the sesamoids the morning after but that is to be expected.  The concerning thing is that I only did the drills at half speed and was still winded almost immediately.  I have a long, long way to go until I am back to where I was when I was awarded my red belt in October.  I'll continue to swim 3x a week, spin and bike because a sprint tri later this year is a very good possibility - provided I continue to progress - but it is way too early to even look at the sprint tri calendar yet. 

The key to regaining my fitness is to not engage in the same activity on successive days - TKD followed by a 60 min swim followed by spin followed by P90x followed by swim followed by TKD, and so forth.  Even thinking about checking out CrossFit.  So my recovery plan is to incorporate a little 'muscle confusion', as Tony Horton might say, but on a much broader scale. 

I will do a short easy run, maybe 2 miles, later this week and see how that goes.  I will slowly work my way up to hopefully the 6 or 7 mile range at some point, but probably nothing longer than that for quite some time.  My son wants to run in the Seacoast Science Center 5k in late April, so I plan on trotting alongside him at a 10:00 pace and want to make sure my foot can at least handle that.

I'll need some new kicks though.  In the April issue of Running Times, there is an article about minimalism-induced injuries, and after plantar fascitis and achilles tendinitis it lists stress fractures and sesamoiditis.  It is difficult to pin down the exact cause of my injury - it is a cocktail of different contributing factors - but I think my shoes may have played a significant role. 

I shifted to the New Balance 890 model in the late summer.  Weighing only 9oz, it was the lightest shoe I've ever tried and enjoyed the 'road feel'.  After nearly 600 miles on my comfy but worn-thin Brooks ASR's gave me some achilles trouble, I went back to the NB 860's, a stability shoe that fits me well.  After 400+ miles I retired those and began racking up the miles in the 890.  Because it is a minimalist 'hybrid' or bridge between the Minumus and a fully cushioned shoe, I may have logged  too many miles too fast in them without fully adjusting to them.  I ran three sub-4:00 26.2's in four weeks (3:58, 3:45, and 3:33) in those shoes right before the pain started.

As far as I can tell, my running gait has stayed basically the same, but in the later stages of marathons (mile 20+) I start to tire and I know for a fact I revert to some major heel striking.  The toe box in the 890's don't have much in the way of support on the recoil, so that right there could be an accelerant for this repetitive stress injury.

I'll transition back to a heavier, more traditional cushioned shoe.  I have an EE width so that narrows my choices down to just a few brands, but I think my theory make sense.

So like Lance said after his rough stretch on the Belgian cobblestones, "Today I was the nail.  I have twenty more days to be the hammer."

I have twenty more years - and then some - to be the hammer.  The lesson here is to be patient and get back into all-around peak shape, and not be too hard on myself for this, because I have a lifetime of races ahead of me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe

Training update.

After some inconclusive x-rays and nearly a month in an aircast boot, I had an MRI to assess the extent of my injury and determine if I do indeed need surgery.  I've never had an MRI before - I saw Freddie Roach have one done the other night on an episode of the HBO documentary that chronicles his life as a boxing trainer living with trauma-induced Parkinson's - but this was all new to me. 

They fastened my foot to a splint-like contraption, and slid me in up to my waist.  They gave me some earphones to drown out the drone, put on some adult contemporary tunes, and told me I'd be done in 25 minutes as if I was a tray of brownies.

First off, I realize that my injury is miniscule and meaningless in contrast to some of the previous people who were on the same table I was, but for more serious reasons - that immediately put things into perspective.  I had some time to think, and somewhere in between the Radiology instruction that piped through the headphones and the hits of the 80's, 90's and today, I came to the conclusion that my 12 marathon challenge may not have been such a great idea. 

"Here I am," I thought, "supine on an MRI table, looking at a big fat bill for this procedure, shelling out 35 bucks a pop per co-pay, stomping around in a boot unable to ski or even snowshoe with my kids this winter - couldn't have I been content with a few marathons here and there and continue with Taekwondo?"

Then what song comes on next?  'I Won't Back Down' by Tom Petty.  What's the Korean word for irony?

Now I used the Eddie Vedder cover for my Windows Moviemaker mashup that is now on Youtube, but after chuckling a bit I basically went through the entire three minute song and recounted each race.

It was a pretty amazing experience.  Maybe I don't regret it so much after all.

Am I still frustrated that I can't run and train like I want to?  Absolutely.  I'm not even close to where I thought I would be by now, as it's already March.  My foot is holding me back, but I also feel that I've been holding myself back a bit as well - I just don't want to experience a setback.  I want the damn thing to heal properly and not have to even think about it anymore.

A few days after the MRI, I met with my Podiatrist and he was encouraged that surgery may not be required.  The images revealed that while the area around the sesamoid bones are still inflamed, there looks to be adequate blood supply and flow that may allow it to heal on its own. 

Surgery would be necessary if the blood supply was compromised and the bone was calcifying and dying - but that may not be the case.  I'm pleased with that, because I was not eager for having to endure a costly operation (estimate:  $1,000 minimum out-of-pocket after insurance) but this non-invasive diagnosis also comes with a price - it will take time.

How much time?  I am back in the boot for another three more weeks, and at the end of March he will take another look at it to verify that it is still healing properly and to conclude that surgery is indeed not needed.  That being said, even when the boot is removed, I still will not be able to run or do TKD for a bit longer, as any jarring/sudden impact can incite the trauma I've been trying so diligently to avoid.

So what was once a twelve month Ironman Arizona training period has basically been cut down to a seven month time frame - if things continue to go well.  Far from ideal, I know.

I've always held the belief that there are so many things in this world that we don't have control over - but what I can do is try to gain mastery over what I do have control over.  If I can't run, I should be in the pool every single day.  Still can't run?  Then how about 10,000 meters on the rower?  That's the approach I need to have. 

My swim this morning wasn't great, as I still struggle with consistent rotary breathing.  I am used to breathing through my nose from running and Taekwondo - I can pretty much predict what my pace per mile is just based upon my breathing, and in Taekwondo breathing from the mouth is showing your opponent you're fatigued - almost a sign of weakness - because your cardio is shot.  In freestyle, I've been taught to inhale with my mouth, and expel that air in the water in the form of bubbles, and repeat. 

When I swim, I tend to raise my head when I tire, and suddenly my form falls to pieces.  I have a hard time avoiding this.  Panic sets in, and I chop and gasp for air until I settle myself down and find my technique and rhythm again.  But I'll be back in the pool tomorrow morning. 

And the next day. 

And the day after that. 

I've read that courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’ 

And speaking of breathing - I saw this clip and it truly resonates with me.  If you watch it, you will understand what I mean.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Won't Back Down

Finally got around to doing are twelve marathons in three minutes:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Long Road Ahead

This is my first post in nearly four months - it almost feels like confession:  'Forgive me, for I am injured, it's been four months since my last post.....'

So let me get caught up on what's been going on since I completed my 12 marathon challenge.  The glow of setting a personal best at Hartford lingered for a long time, and it was a great feeling.  The champagne was sweet, and I do know how to celebrate.

However I did sustain what I thought was a stress fracture just below my 1st metatarsal of my right foot, right beside/underneath the ball of my right foot.  It swelled up after the race, and had some bruising/discoloration so I took some much needed time off from running and Taekwondo to rest.  A logical step.  It's one thing to run a lot of miles over the course of a year, but the stress of running twelve marathons at race pace is another.  Not much you can do - rest was the best medicine.

Meanwhile, I have been searching for a new challenge - and that has come in the form of Ironman.  I was too late to register for Ironman Mont Tremblant over the summer, so set my sights on Ironman Florida - but that sold out in 14 minutes.  So the only other two Ironman options remaining were Ironman Arizona the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and Ironman Cozumel, the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

Registration opened at 1:00pm CST the Monday following the race, and with my American Express in one hand and the mouse in the other I was fortunate enough to get into Ironman Arizona, which will be held in Tempe on Sunday, November 18th 2012.  It sold out in TEN minutes, an Ironman record.  The climate and flat racing course is a draw for many first time triathletes such as myself, and consider myself lucky to have secured a coveted spot in the race.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Ironman presents a massive challenge for me.  Not a particularly strong swimmer and a newbie to the bike, I would have to learn two new disciplines and be able to complete some serious distances - 2.4 miles in Tempe Town Lake, and 112 miles in the saddle.  I've run enough to have complete confidence in my ability to grind out a marathon even in the worst possible situations, so that gives me reason that I can do this and finish in a respectable time.

Multisport in many ways is what golf was a generation ago.  What motivated people do in their spare time, it is a competitive outlet for the  individual who wants to keep their bodies in peak condition.  We recently rescued a cat from an animal shelter and took him to the Vet - turns out he ran in the Smuttynose Marathon as well (in the torrential rain, no less) and over the course of our conversation realized that we passed each other multiple times along the way, and finished a 26.2 race a mere :45 seconds apart.  He finished Ironman Cozumel last year, and is doing IMAZ as well!  Small world.  Not to mention my daughter's soccer coach started running marathons in his 20's, and did 16 states on his quest to run all 50 - until he caught the Ironman bug.  He did Lake Placid the past two years, and is doing the inaugural NYC Ironman this August.

So I took about six full weeks off from running and Taekwondo - something I didn't want to do, but thought was prudent.   When I started up again, I started feeling pain again after about logging 40 miles over maybe six runs.  At Taekwondo I could feel it not only when I would strike a target - be it a heavybag or an opponent's Hogu or chest protector - but just during the simple act of bouncing on the balls of my feet during basic drills.

So I gave myself another six weeks - even push ups/planks/Vinyasa yoga was out since I couldn't flex my foot.

That pushed me into the second week of January, when I began Ironman training.  I've got a certified USAT coach, and she's a good one.  A New Zealand native, she crushed Ironman Arizona in 11:19 last November, and had transition times that rivaled the pros.  Multisport is right up there with rugby in New Zealand, and in conversations with her it was quite evident she knew all three disciplines inside and out.  I had her devise a training plan for me, and having someone be able to offer in depth recon of the course come raceday, not to mention raceday nutrition, is a good decision indeed.

I alternated between pool work, spin and some light trail running because we've barely had any snow here in Maine and the softer terrain would be a better surface to run on.

As I ramped up the miles, I did a 12 mile run (a route that I've done 100 times before) and three days later the pain in my right foot returned.

This time, I decided to see an orthopedist and then a podiatrist.  Two visits and ten X-rays later, I know the deal - and it's not good.   We all have small bones in our feet called Sesamoids, about the size of jelly beans - and not only did I fracture the one on my right foot, a cyst developed and cut off the blood flow to the Sesamoids.  They are attatched by ligaments and tendons, not to other bones, and they are a fulcrum to the big toe.  They became irritated, inflamed - and very painful.

The condition only worsened, and the pain was unbearable.  I have run enough marathons and can both tolerate and compartmentalize pain fairly well - but this was ridiculous.  It took a week for the pain to subside, and am now in a boot for six weeks.

We are going to wait and see how it does by keeping weight off-loaded and the foot immobilized and reducing the amount of pressure on it - but often times this is an injury that either requires frequent cortisone injections or most likely surgery to remove the Sesamoid bones altogether as the 'floating' bone is cut off and continues to calcify and die without proper blood flow.

I found a bit of humor in this injury when I discovered that while not terribly common to runners, it is something that happens to ballet dancers, baseball catchers - and Thoroughbred horses.  Just ask 'Always a Princess', trained by legendary Bob Baffert who sustained a Sesamoid fracture during the 1 1/8 mile Santa Margarita.  (She's already had surgery and is recovering just fine.)

The good news is that I am expected to fully recover from this sort of injury as well - and will be able to return to endurance running and Ironman training in due course, but will need to be patient.  I can continue to swim, and will start spin as soon as the swelling has completely dissipated.

It is almost as if my body is telling me 'Less running, do other things'.  Always, always listen to your body.

And I remember a great quote from Bob Harper, the famed Biggest Loser trainer when one of the contestants had a crisis of confidence breakdown of epic proportions during a kettleball workout - he said "Go ahead and have your pity party and feel sorry for yourself because the only one who will be at that party is you."

Very well said.  So I will swim my laps, crank on the bike trainer, and approach this challenge as an opportunity to improve those two disciplines.  I will sorely miss Taekwondo, however.  My quest for black belt will have to wait that much longer - but I will get there.

Mrs. 12 Marathons has seen how much pain I've been in lately and asked me point blank - "Why do you want to do an Ironman?  Why do you want to put your body through that much agony?"

I didn't have a simple answer.  Couldn't find one, other than I need to.  I've been thinking about her question for a week now.

I need to cross the finish line.  I have left so many other things in my life unfinished.  I am a finisher now.

I need to hear Mike Reilly say:  "DAVID COSTANTINI, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Was A Very Good Year

When I first had the idea to run 12 marathons in 12 months, I did not know what to expect.

Could I do it?

Should I do it?

How much is our insurance deductible?  (Ooof, a lot.)

Are my race entry fees refundable?  (Nope.)

Have other people done this before?  (A few.  Not many, though.)

It is a substantial undertaking.  The logistics of finding 12 races, then traveling to them (often with two children in tow), making sure my body remains conditioned to handle the pounding, allowing ample time to recover, and of course staying healthy through it all - but in the end the decision was simple.  Life is so short.  Live without regret.  

So with that in mind, I went for it.  With my family behind me 100%, I set out on this bold venture.  And sometimes it all just works out............beautifully.

I had two weeks to rest (and dry out) after race #11, the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon here in nearby Hampton Beach, NH.  It poured something fierce that morning, and my 3:45 finish time was my 2nd fastest time since my challenge began.  Hartford would be my 3rd marathon in four weeks, and as I've mentioned before, I was thinking that it simply might end up being a 'Champagne stage' run - in 'Tour de France' jargon, that means the outcome has already been decided and I would cruise to the finish, not exert myself too much, and celebrate the accomplishment.

But you don't run 11 marathons without the ability - and desire - to push yourself.  Shutting off the 'competitive valve' is a very difficult thing to do.

And when I say competitive, I mean against myself.  Every training run, every race, I have a goal pace, and a finish time, in mind.  Even if I don't hit those goal times, I gauge myself by a different measure - effort.

So the day after Smuttynose, I felt fantastic.  Unusually good for someone who ran two 26.2 races just seven days apart, especially because Clarence DeMar was hot and hilly and Smuttynose was run at a fast (for me) tempo.  I kept going to Taekwondo to keep my cardio up and to clear my mind, which it always does, and did three runs following Smuttynose - a 7, a 9, and a 5 miler.  All averaged a very steady, and comfortable, 7:30 pace.  I felt ready.

The 12 marathon family drove down on Friday afternoon, and had dinner with a childhood friend who I've known since 4th grade.  (In fact we ran track together my senior year in high school - I was the 3rd leg on the 4x400m relay team).  They live a few miles outside downtown Hartford, so I crashed there Friday evening and he got me to the XL Center in plenty of time to pick up my bib.  (Thanks again, G!)

I have to say, the ING Hartford Marathon is a first class event.  I liked everything about it.  It's a midsize race with a very big time feel.  This was my third ING sponsored race - NYC is, well, NYC, but they also sponsored Miami, and that was great as well.

Once getting my bib, I walked through Bushnell Park to the start line, stretched a bit, and found a spot in the corral.  I had met the pace director for Hartford Marathon at the start of the Clarence DeMar Marathon several weeks earlier, and told him I was hoping to run a 3:40 at Hartford.  He told me who the pacer would be, but after my 3:58 finish, and with Smuttynose a week away, I saw him again at the finish and shook my head - Not so sure about a 3:40 after this, I said.  But we'll see.

Encouraged by my Smuttynose finish and subsequent training runs, I sought out the 3:40 pacer and stood in his general vicinity.

I remembered that when Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, his last race was the NYC Marathon.  He ran it in 3:00:30, his fastest time of all 50 races.  I would try to run my fastest time as well.

Let's empty the tank, I told myself as the pre-race adrenaline began to flow.  Conditions were perfect - upper 50's, sunshine, very little wind but that would pick up later in the race.  I wore a thin pair of Smartwool gloves, my Adidas top that is a bit too big now (I like it because it reminds me of the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby jersey) and gray Nike shorts, with Zenzah calf compression sleeves and of course my NB 890's.

The gun went off at 8:00am, and we were off.  There were a lot of half marathoners in this race, splitting off onto a different course a few miles in.  I ran my first mile through the downtown streets at a 5k-like 6:48 clip.  Fastest mile split time I've ever had in a 26.2 race.  That was either a very good thing - - or a very bad thing.

Mile 2 7:09, Mile 3 7:22 Mile 4 7:35 Mile 5 7:24.  I was running at a nice brisk but controlled pace, reminiscent of my last few training runs.  We ran parallel to the Connecticut River through Riverside Park, crowd support was surprisingly strong.  I was striving for consistent mile splits, as my goal was to maintain a steady, even tempo.

Mile 6 7:23  I rounded a corner and saw my wife, Dad, and sisters.  That was a very uplifting moment.  I tossed them my gloves, as I was sufficiently warmed up.  Twenty more to go!

Mile 7 7:34, Mile 8 7:46, Mile 9 7:50  Mile 9 included a small hill, and got it back to 7:40 for Mile 10.  Mile 11 was also 7:40, and was very pleased with how the race was playing out.  Mile 12 was 7:58, and now the time goal was to keep all splits under 8:00 for as long as possible.

Mile 13 7:55.  My 13.1 time:  1:40:30, or 7:44 mile average.  I was stoked with that split.

Mile 14 7:43  We were on an out-and-back stretch of the course, and as I crossed the Mile 14 mark the race leader zipped past me at the Mile 20 mark.  So even if I was spotted a six mile lead, I'd still get passed like I was standing still!

Mile 15 7:59  I would check my Garmin each mile, usually with less than 1/10th to go, and push to make sure I kept it below 8:00.  That was the mental game I was playing to keep sharp.  Also I was in a pack with 10-15 other runners who were all maintaining the same pace I was.  This is why I enjoy larger races as opposed to smaller ones - the field tends to push me, and I find I stay motivated while running in a pack as I want to keep up stride for stride.  I always try to run my own race, but group running can really help the intensity level when you might begin to fade otherwise.

Mile 16 8:00 exactly.  I was talking to the runner beside me and missed by one second, and that really bothered me.  Running is psychological, and there is a difference between seeing 7:59 and 8:00 on the Garmin.

Mile 17 8:21, and we hit the turnaround point on the out-and-back.  9 more miles, and I began to think about finish times, and what was possible.  I didn't want to get too excited, but a Personal best was looking very realistic. I kept on thinking about how great it would feel to P.R. my final race, to knock one out of the park in the bottom of the 12th inning.........I wanted a walk-off P.R!

Mile 18 8:03  Back near 8:00, running hard and very proud of that split!

Mile 19 8:24  The pack I was running in began to break up - about three runners kept the 8:00 pace, three including myself ran side by side in the mid-8's, and the rest fell back.

Mile 20 8:51  I was beginning to feel it, but wouldn't say I hit the wall.  My time thus far was 2:37:29, or 7:53 pace.  6.2 to go!  Hell, if ran this at 10:00 pace I would break my Sugarloaf P.R. of 3:39:19 so I kept pushing.  Hard.  I remember thinking at this point that if I finished up my 12 marathon challenge and ran a 3:40 I would be disappointed, because I let a P.R. opportunity slip away.  Be relentless, I kept thinking.

Mile 21 8:56  Instead of trying to run sub-8's, it became run sub-9's.

Mile 22 8:52  I began to notice the headwind - it picked up considerably.  Though not much of a Floyd Mayweather boxing fan, I kept remembering his training mantra as he prepared to take on Victor Ortiz:  Hard work.  Dedication.  Hard work.  Dedication.  Hard work.  Dedication.....I repeated those words when the fatigue started to set in, that helped get me through the pain.  

Mile 23 8:56 A 5k to go!  Also the pacer passed me.  The 3:30 Pacer!  I would set a P.R. for sure, just keep grinding!

Mile 24 9:06 Mile 25 9:09 Mile 26 9:17  Those last three miles were windy as hell!

As soon as I saw the Soldier and Sailor Arch that marked the finish in Bushnell Park I turned on the jets for one final push - the clock read 3:33......I finished in 3:33:47, an 8:09 marathon pace and a P.R. by 5:32 minutes!

I received my medal, gave it a kiss, and then saw my family - hugs all around.

We uncorked a bottle of champagne and toasted to a year of sacrifice, dedication, and a vision realized.  I thought of the last line of that Sinatra song:  It poured sweet and clear..... it was a very good year.

Five days later, and it is still hard to articulate how I goes beyond pride....a deep satisfaction in completing something so difficult, and to end it all by shattering my old marathon time.  I genuinely feel rewarded for my effort, content that I've accomplished something that would have been completely inconceivable a few years earlier.  What an amazing, extraordinary experience.

I burned through six pairs of running shoes (Three New Balance, Two Brooks, and a pair of Montrail trail shoes) with a total of 1,391 training and racing miles since October 2, 2010.

Ironically, 1,391 miles is roughly the distance from Kittery, ME to Panama City Beach, FL.  Why is that relevant?

Because that will be where I take on my next challenge - to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles at Ironman Florida November 6th, 2012.  I missed the cutoff for entry into Ironman Mont Tremblant in Quebec, so Florida it is.  The Gulf chop will make for a challenging swim, but it is a flat course for both the bike and run.  The goal is to earn the title Ironman.

I've run 26.2 in nine states during this 12 month challenge, and as two longer-term goals, I would also like to run one in all 50 states, as well as continue to work towards earning my black belt in Taekwondo.

Running a 3:33:47 also made me think about eventually qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  With the tightened BAA standards I need to run a 3:15 in the 40-44 age group - when I turn 45 it will be a 3:20.  Can I shave off 13:47 over the next four years?  A little over :30 seconds per mile?  I dare to say that I can, but still have an incredible amount of very hard work to do before I can realistically make a run at it.  Hard work, dedication.  Hard work, dedication.  Hard work, dedication........

Also, I've received a number of questions relating to my training, nutrition, favorite races - so I will address all of those in my next post.

A massive thank you goes out to so, so many - especially to those of you who take the time to read this blog - but most importantly, to my wife 'Mrs. 12 Marathons'.  (I know that name cracks her up.)  Couldn't have done this without her incredible support and understanding.  She made this possible.

Once again, thank you!

Friday, October 14, 2011

One more to go!

My final 26.2 is tomorrow!


Truth be told, I don't want this to end.  It's been incredible fun, especially the anticipation aspect of each race.   I enjoy the feeling of being 'in training' for a year straight, and the constant diligence of running regularly and maintaining a proper diet has paid some nice dividends - I'm a comfortable 168 lbs these days after breaking the 175 plateau, where I was for most of the summer.  In fact, I checked my training log and was actually in the low 180's for my winter races 4-5-6 (Jan Miami/Feb Hyannis/Mar Atlanta).  Lighter = faster, so let's see if I can put that theory into practice.

In reviewing the Hartford course, it starts/finishes at Bushnell Park and doesn't seem to be too hilly - a few undulations in the early miles and a gradual decline in elevation between miles 15-20 should be welcome because that is when I usually begin to tire.  I'll be ready for a rise around mile marker 24, but the final stretch is downhill so hopefully I can empty the tank for my final charge to the finish.

Weather is looking low 50's at the 8:00am start, most likely dry but windy.  Gloves early on will be a must.

So this is it!  What began as a wild idea that occurred to me during an early morning run back in September 2010 is almost over.  Eleven marathons down, and each one has been a truly memorable experience.

At the Vermont City Marathon back in May I remember seeing a bumper sticker in the expo parking lot that said "The best things in life aren't things" and next to it was a 26.2 sticker.  Simple as it sounds, it resonated with me.  It's the experiences you have, surrounded by the people you truly care about, that I've come to value the most.

I will cross that finish line tomorrow a better person.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Back-to-back 26.2's...and Dean Karnazes!

“Most people never get there. They're afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you're not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you're not constantly demanding more from yourself--expanding and learning as you go--you're choosing a numb existence. You're denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”
― Dean KarnazesUltramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

Did something fantastic yesterday.  I went for a run with Dean Karnazes, someone I have quoted on this blog quite frequently.  Runner's Alley in Portsmouth sponsored a 4 mile run with him in advance of the talk he gave as part of the Portsmouth Music Hall lecture series.  Needless to say, both the run and the talk were incredible.

I had a chance to run alongside him for a good bit, keeping an easy 9:00 pace and we chatted about my 12 marathon challenge as well as his incredible future endeavor of running a marathon in every country in the world in one year - that's 204 marathons in 365 days!  I told him I'd love to join him when he gets to Italy!

I have read all three of his books, so I shouldn't have been surprised at how genuine and down to earth he is.  His first one, Ultramarathon Man:  Confessions of an All-Night Runner literally was a turning point in my life.  I had started Taekwondo, and by that point lost around 15 lbs when I began reading it.  That planted the inspirational seed to not only get running again, but gave me the confidence to do a marathon as well as a 12 hour ultramarathon.  

I'm down an additional 45 lbs since then, just attained my Red belt in Taekwondo (next belt is BLACK!) and on the verge of completing my 12 marathon 12 month challenge.  Amazing what you can achieve, and the experiences you can have, if you simply believe in yourself.

But let's back up a bit since the past few weeks have been hectic and I haven't had a chance to blog of late...

Marathon #10 was the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, NH on September 25th, a race that I signed up for in my post-Quebec City scramble to find a replacement race due to Hurricane Irene.  

Up at 3:30am, Mrs. 12 Marathons and I made the two hour drive on Rt. 101 in plenty of time to pick up my bib.  They bused us to Gilsum where the race began, a tiny town with a white line painted on the road in front of the Post Office to mark the start.  About 200 or so hardcore runners, and we were off!

I knew the course was relatively straightforward - a 400ft decline over the first 12 miles until a hill before the split, then some rolling hills on the back half until a beast of a hill at 22.  I ran it hard, my first seven miles were all under 8:00 with Mile 3 clocking a 7:00 even and Mile 5 7:14.  Was I going out too strong?  I eased up a bit and made it to 13.1 in 1:44, a decent half split time.  

That was around the time I started to really feel the heat and humidity, however - it was very sticky for late September, and the leaves hadn't even begun to turn as yet, and the mosquitoes were brutal.

I battled in the low 9:00's between mile 14-19, but Mile 20 I was 10:02, then Mile 21 10:49, Mile 22 10:56 Mile 23 11:02....I was toast.  I began the final three mile push to make sure I'd get this one under 4:00, and I finished #11 in 3:58:20.

The heat had gotten to a good number of runners, however, as the triage medical tent was overflowing with heat exhaustion victims.  Fortunately I've run enough races so that I manage both my nutrition and fluid intake properly, and it helps that I perspire with great proficiency.

Recovery from this race was surprisingly quick, aided by the fact that a post-race massage helped loosen up my muscles and clear out the lactic acid.  My calves were tight, but they felt considerably better after the rubdown.  I'm now a big advocate of the post-race massage - if they offer one, count me in.  

So with #10 down, my attention turned to #11, the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon in Hampton Beach, NH.  I was running marathons successive weekends for the first time, so decided not to run in the days between to keep my legs as fresh as possible.  

To make matters more interesting, I tested for my Taekwondo Red belt on that Saturday, a six hour event that required a lot of stamina and effort.  It is as demanding as running a marathon, but it went well, as I particularly enjoy the contact sparring and board breaking portions.

Immediately following testing, I made Tagliatelle alla Bolognese to fuel up for #11, as it was a special request by Mrs. 12 marathons since she was going to be running her first half marathon.

So properly recharged from testing and fueled up for our races, we woke on Sunday excited for our runs but greeted by torrential rain.  This was going to be interesting!

We went to the start and were drenched before we even got our bibs.  It was a ferocious, driving rain that would not let up but undaunted we ran anyway.  Despite running 26.2 the week before and Taekwondo a day earlier, I actually felt great.  Being a flat course, I set a personal goal of 3:45.

I ran the early miles at a pretty steady pace:
1) 7:28 
2) 7:18 
3) 7:26 
4) 7:14 
5) 7:27 
9) 7:49 

So I ran a 1:39;13 over the first 13.1 miles, crushing my Quebec City PR for that distance by over three minutes.  Feeling strong, but once I went over 8:00 min/mile I couldn't get back under it and started to slow:


Just three miles in the 8's and then I hit the 9's:

19)10:12 (Porta-potty break, maybe lost :45 sec?)
21)10:21 - starting to feel it
22)9:07 - made a charge
24)10:22 - pretty much out of steam - self-preservation mode
27)4:25 - final push, I ran the last .59 miles at a 7:32 pace, very proud of that

So I finished up 3:45:15, my 3rd fastest marathon ever, and 2nd fastest in this 12 month challenge.  Mrs. 12 marathons met me at the finish, and soaked, I wolfed down about 4 Larabars and 2 Stonyfield smoothies before having a well-deserved beer: 

Very happy for Mrs. 12 marathons - told me that at mile 12 she was chugging away and a big roar erupted from the crowd.  She was elated that they were cheering with such enthusiasm for her, and she whooped and hollered along with them - only to find out that the police motorcade was passing her, escorting the leading male runner.  She laughed about that all the way to the finish!

So this is a race I would love to do again - it is a fast course and if I train specifically for it, would love to gun for a BQ at some point here.  With the tightened BAA qualification standards I would need to shave a full 30 minutes off my finish time, which is a near eternity in running terms, but perhaps by age 45 (when they give runners an extra 5 minutes) I will be able to make a serious charge at a 3:20?  A man can dream - -  and train!

So with bittersweet emotion I prepare for my final marathon in this 12 month challenge - the ING Hartford Marathon on Saturday, October 15th.