Monday, November 26, 2012


As soon as the dust settled about the NYC Marathon being canceled I set out to quickly find another 26.2 race within driving distance of home.  I figured I had done all the preparation needed to complete my first marathon and I wanted to do all I could to prove to myself whether or not I could complete the distance I had trained for.  I quickly found there was a race less than 90 minutes away in Plymouth, MA.  It was a first year race called the Myles Standish Marathon.  Most of the course would be run in the state forest.  A big difference from running through the streets of the 5 boroughs of NYC.  The race fee was a "steal" at only $50 with the added bonus that any NYC Marathon refugees would have half their race fees send to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The race stated there was a 6 hour cut-off and since that was my target time, I reached out to the race director if finishing after the cut-off time meant a DNF or simply that there would be reduced support on the race course.  The race director Anne-Marie got back to me quickly to assure me I would not be pulled off the course and if anything, some of the volunteers might be released after that time.  I have started to use a FUEL BELT and knew I would be able to carry what I needed for the later stages of the race.  I immediately registered and then had to decide how best to prepare for the race after just completing a 2 week taper for NYC.

When I reached out to Anne-Marie I thought it best I send along links for the two stories about me leading up to the NYC Marathon.

New York Magazine

Boston Herald

Anne-Marie got back to me and asked if I felt it would be okay for her to reach out to some media contacts leading up the race.  As most people who know me are aware, I am not bashful at all about spreading the word.  I quickly heard that Fox News Boston was interested in doing a LIVE interview on the morning news program on the Friday morning prior to the race.  Pingree was gracious enough to allow me to travel down to Dedham for the interview.  The link to the interview is below.

Fox News Story

Sue and I discussed the best way to try and travel down to the race as Sue and Owen were both hoping to come and watch me at different points on the course. I certainly was not expecting them to come down for the entire day while at the same time I was not wanting to have to drive myself home after the race either.

I knew that a fellow triathlete I know, Donna Furse, who races with QT2 lives in Manchester and was doing the race as well.  I reached out and asked and she said she would be happy to have the company to drive down to the race.  Donna also let me in on some additional info.  It seems the race organizers had decided to allow people to start an hour early (at 7pm) if they were worried about making the 6 hour cut-off.  I went so far as to ask people online about whether or not I should start early.  I would say it turned out to be about a 60-40 split in favor of starting early.  I could think of many reasons to take the extra hour and in the end I decided to do so.  In the end, there are about 8 or 9 of us who started at 7AM.

Leading up to my prep for the race, I ended up deciding to do a mini ramp-up with a 10 mile run the week before the race and then keep all the other runs to between 4-6 miles.  The week prior to the race I decided to take part in the R11A 5K.  This honored Rich Angelo who was a member of the Fitwerx triathlon team who died unexpectantly during the swim portion of the USA Triathlon National Championships in Burlington, VT.  Rich was a dear friend of a number of triathletes I know in the area and he was also a beloved father, brother and son to a loving area family.

The race went better than expected as it was a very hilly course and I was able to average 12:07min/mile over the 2.8 mile (a wee bit short) course.  I stuck around for the award ceremony and then headed home to finish up about 7 miles on my own.

As race day approached I was trying to figure out the terrain of the course.  The elevation was described as "some rolling hills" and there were also two spots of running on packed dirt roads.  The weather was looking like clear skies but coolish temps.

Getting ready
On the bus!
Donna arrived like clockwork at 4:35AM as she stated she would.  I had got up about 45 min earlier and had my usual pre-race fruit and protein smoothie.  The temp outside was, 28 degrees, but luckily there was no wind at all.  The ride down there was fast but maybe it only seemed that way because Donna was such a great person to chat with.  We learned a lot about each other's families etc and of course a lot of why both of us race.  I always find when I get to know people, we are usually more alike than different.

We arrived at the drop-off spot a little before 6AM and waited for the shuttle (yellow school) bus to take us to the race start.  It was starting to feel a little weird that so much of the race was going to be in a state park yet it would be ending in a strip mall.

When we got to the start line I was rushed to get ready and head to the starting line.  I had decided to run in shorts but keep the compression sleeves in my calves.  I wore three t-shirts and a long sleeved shirt as well.  I ended up with a visor (instead of a toque) and no gloves.  The temp in the park as still in the high 20's but the sun was coming up and there was no wind.  I was certain once I got moving all would be fine.

At the 7AM start!  
We got a couple of pics of the early starters and by the time we assembled it was 7:08AM.  We lined up and then WE WERE OFF! I started feeling a bit emotional at this point thinking back to when I started all of this racing back in 2009.  Prior to my first triathlon, I had never ran more than once around a track.  Four of the runners started off quickly and I would never see them again.  There were 3 or 4 runners behind me, but most importantly, I was not feeling rushed.  I quickly got into my 3min/1min run to walk routine and all was feeling well.  I had remembered to take a blast of my inhaler prior to the start and so breathing was going quite well.

I also decided to run without music.  So much of my recent training was done listening to my body, especially my breathing, and I felt it would really work out better that way.  Without much of a crowd to worry about it did seem lonely AT TIMES, but since I trained that way, I was used to it.  The only real fans were at water stops and at the marathon relay transfer areas.

Except for miles 5 to 6 and then 7 to 8, most of course consisted of rolling hills.  The course was a lot hillier than I had expected, according to the description online and the mapymyrun site. With my GPS and google maps it turned out there was close to 1000ft of climbing and descending.  When I checked a few sites regarding the NYC Marathon, that race has about 800ft of climbing (mostly on the bridges).

I did not start getting passed by the 8AM runners until just before mile 8.  That ended up being a little later than I had expected.  For the first 8 miles I was averaging 13:10 min/mile, which was faster than planned, but all seemed real good at this point.  Once I started getting passed I knew that would mean a steady stream of runners would be passing me the rest of the morning.  I would certainly enjoy being cheered, but cheering them on as well.

I got my first glimpse of Sue and Owen between mile 10 and 11.  At that point, all was going according to plan.  My pace was good and temps at that time were warming up, but I was not HOT at all.  I got a nice hug and kiss from both of them and kept on going.

Once I reached 13.1 miles (1/2 marathon distance) my watch read 2:53:39, and all was well.  I had a 6 or so minute buffer built up at this point and could start to ease up a bit. The climbing at this point was pretty consistent.

Feeling OK! (Capstone Photo)
Things started to change after mile 15 and I started to feel like the climbing was getting harder.  I figured immediately after the race,   I had not trained well enough and I probably had just not been ready for the distance but when I checked out my GPS watch, my hopes had been confirmed.

The climbing was NOT IN MY HEAD.  Through the first 14 miles or so we had been averaging about 30 or  so feet of climbing per mile.  Mile 16 was 60 feet of climb with 70 of descent,.  Mile 17 had 60 feet of descent.

My knees, quads, and hamstrings were starting to get sore, not tight, just sore.  Again, I saw Sue and Owen between miles 17 and 18 and at this point I had calculated I would probably not make my 6 hour goal.  I took off my long sleeve shirt and gave it to Sue and continued on.

My pace at this time was slowing to close to 15 min/mile. And then I hit mile 19 with 85 feet of ascent.  Now I know, these GPS devices can be inaccurate.  But my watch was confirming what my body was feeling.

And then, I hit the WALL around mile 20.  Nutrition did not seem like a concern but something inside of my body was telling me to give up the running and simply walk the remaining 6+ miles.  That voice lasted for about 2 minutes.  And then I remembered, Katie Lynch, Jim Logan, the Hoyts, Sue and Owen and all those insensitive knobs who yelled things out of their car windows as I trained,  And I started to run again.  My lungs could not handle to 3 to 1 run to walk,  so I started to follow the electrical poles.  I would walk to a pole and then run between 2 or 3 of them and then walk to the next one.  That worked for most of the rest of the race.  The two stretches of dirt road on the course were not easy either.  I was doing my best to avoid the small potholes, so a lot along those roads was shuffling instead of running.

We exited the park just before mile 25 and I knew this quest would soon be over.  As I neared the finish chute I could here people yelling, "He's coming!".  I turned the corner into the small parking lot at the strip mall where were to finish, which was so different from the miles and miles in the park.

Sue and Owen were there and I crossed the line running as much as I could.  A big hug for both Sue and Owen and all I could do was look at Sue and start crying.  All I remember saying to her was, "That was SO HARD!".

At the Finish!  26.2 miles DONE.

My finish time was 6:20:07.  When I think about that, I finished less than a minute per mile slower than I had hoped for.  My goal was 13:44 per mile and I ended up with 14:18 per mile.  When I think about how much hillier that course turned out to be, I was totally satisfied with my finish.  It only took me less than 48 hours to starting thinking, when is the next one.

What a support crew!  Owen's sign says, "My Dad Just Did a Marathon"

Funny thing, 4 days later I would travel back to Andover to race in the Feaster Five again.  There would be more than 10,000 runners here and I ended up RUNNING the 5K and finished in 41:53.  Very close to my average 5K time.  Nothing beats running with Joan Benoit, Bill Rodgers, and the Hoyts.

Start of the Feaster Five

Look over on the right hand side.  Just 4 days post-marathon

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NYC Marathon 2012. Well, almost.

As many know by now, the race itself was cancelled due to the terrible aftermath of "Hurricane Sandy".  There are arguments flying back and forth online about whether or not the race should have happened.  Also, there has been concern expressed about why the marathon was cancelled, yet 3 NBA games and an NFL game were able to go on in the area.

The argument can go back and forth for days, but deep down I know.  It was right to cancel the race.  The problem was the fact that they waited so long to do so.

Anyway, I want to share a letter I read to the school community where I teach.

Good morning.

This past week has been a whirl-wind of emotion for me from great highs to very low lows.  After the hurricane last week I was ready for the NYC Marathon to be canceled.  I had come to the conclusion that it was out of my control and I would be wasting energy worrying about it.  I would continue to train as planned and wait to see what happened.  It was obvious there was some terrible destruction in the NYC area, but the Mayor seemed positive that the race would go on as planned.   As the week came to a close, the Mayor announced that the race would actually go on.

I heard from a number of runners, that they would not race as they felt it would be disrespectful to the families who lost loved-ones or had their homes damaged or destroyed. Though I agreed I also heard the message that this race might be a rallying point for the city as it had been after 9/11.  The only difference was in 2001, the race was 7 weeks after the terrorist attacks, and this year the marathon would take place less than a week after the storm.  I considered the options and felt like I should go and race.  I had trained a long time for this and had numerous people supporting me along the way and I did not want to let them down.

My race jersey.
As we travelled down to NYC on Friday it got clearer with each mile past Hartford, how devastating this storm was.  Most gas stations along HWY 91 were closed either with no power or they were out of gas.  Trees were down all over the place and work crews were out cleaning up.  We were listening to the radio and receiving text messages (my wife was driving as I was reading them) that there were long lines for gas and no subways running.  All of the radio shows were saying the same thing, why was the marathon going on?  Bodies were still being recovered on Staten Island.  We arrived in NYC around 4:30pm, more than 2 hours later than expected as there was a long line to go over the bridge into Manhatten from the Bronx.  They were restricting cars to 3 occupants or more.  We parked the car, got our rooms and then at 5:30pm I got a text that the race had been canceled.

My immediate response was that of frustration and anger.  Why had I come all the way down here only to have the race canceled?  Was this a ploy by the mayor to get all 40,000 runners in town, cancel the race, and then at least have us there to spend our money.  I don’t know the answer, but I did know, it was the correct call.  Only much easier to take if it had been made 3 days before.  Many more runners sacrificed more than I did with canceled flights and then re-booking them.  There were athletes from South Aftrica, Australia, India, all over.

Me and Kat (Pres. of the NYC Chapter of Achilles Int)
But what had I lost, but some money for gas and a hotel stay.  Taking the time to realize, 1,000’s of people had no power, flooded homes, and 42 dead in NY alone.  I was only denied my first chance at running a marathon.  I got up early on Saturday morning and ran with some of my teammates from Achilles International and then had a chance to speak to some fund-raisers at a luncheon for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

I will have many more chances to race where some people’s lives are turned upside down by the loss of a loved one or their home. 

Take the time to be thankful for what you have and when a bump comes along in the road, it often helps to take the time to realize, there are often people a lot worse off than you are.

Mile 24 banner still in place.  I'll be back!
As an addendum, I just found out that there is a marathon in Plymouth, MA on November 18th.  I signed up last night.  So much for an off-season.  I am also racing in the Rich Angelo 5K this weekend to honor a fallen triathlete and father.  December 5th is the Jolly Jaunt 5K in Danvers, MA that raises money for the local Special Olympics.