Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yesterday, for the first time in two months, I tried some speed work. I went to the track, planning to do three one-mile intervals. Wayne and Mark were there when I arrive, and Steve H. showed within a few minutes. We warmed up for a few miles first, then stretched. I felt reasonable loose by my standards for 'loose'. (I don't actually touch my toes, but I do give them a good looking at.)

The four of us lined up and started the first mile together. Mark, of course, finished well ahead of the rest of us, I estimate at about 5:15. I ran it in 6:00 minutes even, which was faster than I had planned, but still Steve and Wayne were right there around 6:15. I felt the burning in my Achilles, but it was not too bad and I decided to continue. I did a slow 400 yards to recover, then we lined up to start the second mile. Funny about that, as I pushed off at the start, I felt a twinge in my Achilles, which made me instinctively try to take the weight off my foot. I ended up doing a sort of jump-hop and came right out of my shoe. I slip it back on, and then tried to keep running, but the Achilles pain had gotten into my head. I pulled up short after half a lap, stretched, retied my shoe, and then rejoined the run. I finished with a time of about 6:30, adjusted for down-time probably about a 6:10. After another minute or two of recovery and reassessment of the Achilles pain (still tolerable), I decided I wasn't going to go home without completing the three fast miles I had planned to do, so I lined up for the last mile. As soon as we left the line, I got the stupid idea that I would try to run the first quarter mile with Mark. I managed to stay with him for a little while before he began to pull away. Mark is only slightly competitive, so I suspect that with me on his shoulder, he picked up his pace in that first quarter mile to drop me. Regardless, I am sure that was the fastest quarter mile I've run in many, many years. I did slow up after than, but managed about a 6:10 mile.
We ended the session with about a mile and a half of slow recovery. I went home and realized I had not once thought about my quads, even though it is only a week since Boston. That might have had something to do with my Achilles taking all of my attention, but still, I like to think that I am well on the way toward recovery from the Boston Quad Buster Marathon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Post Race Analysis...or...Stcik to the Plan Stupid

Here is a simply graph illustrating the effects of going out too fast in Boston. The X axis represents the mile markers and the Y axis represents my pace for that mile. Note the red horizontal line indicating my target pace. I have exaggerated the scale of the pace to make my drop-off at the end more conspicuous.

In fact, it is not as bad as it looks. If I had followed my plan exactly, I still would have been above target for the first 16 miles, and below it for most of the remaining miles. I had not planned to run in the 6's and low 7's all the way to the Newton Hills, which is what I did. The peak of Heartbreak Hill is at the 20.5 mile mark. Still, I didn't completely blow it. Look at the way I picked up the pace to 7:16 for mile 21. Unfortunately,doing that completed the trashing of my quads. I ran the last four miles at 7:49, 8:08, 8:00, and 7:57.

My conclusions: My plan was basically sound, and despite going out too fast, the plan did serve me in the end by allowing to finish at 3:16:55 despite slow miles through the hills and four slow miles in the end. I am convinced that if I had held about a 7:15 - 7:20 pace through mile 16, I would have had much more in reserve to finish strong. I estimate that running smarter would have enabled me to finish around 3:13 - 3:14. Please...everyone...remember to remind me of this next year.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Good Weekend

Since Boston, the recovery week has gone as follows:
Wednesday 4.5 miles
Weak, slow, and embarrassing first three miles. Weak, a bit less slow final 1.5 miles. Surprisingly, very tolerable aching in quads. Knee and Achilles also tolerable.
Thursday 6.0 miles
Slow, but feeling better. Stride feeling closer to normal as I loosen up.
Friday 6.0 miles
A little less slow...very far from fast...stride not quite right yet.
Saturday 7.15 miles
A bit faster, but not what you would mistake for actual speed.
Sunday 10.00 miles
7:41 pace for 10 miles. Fast is beginning to look possible again.

I just received an e-mail which cited my finish relative to the other runners in the race. I am really pleased because the Boston qualification standards insure that this race has only very good runners.

Official Finish: 3:16:55
Place Overall: 3624 of 21963
I finished ahead of 84% of the runners who finished the race.
Place Men: 3305 of 13028
I finished ahead of 75% of the men who finished the race.
Place Veterans 50-59: 212 of 2800
I finished ahead of 91% of the runners in my age group who finished the race.

Are you kidding me? I kicked ass.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Groovin'...on a sunny afternoon

The beautiful weather continues. Yesterday was sunny and in the high 60's. I ran a 6 mile out and back on the canal tow path from Frazee house to the Brecksville Station. Nice and flat, perfect for a recovery run. Today, feeling stronger, I ran and out and back starting at Kichler, going down into the valley then along the tow path north to the museum. The hills were more of a test, but I felt fine. Looking good for a few longer runs this weekend. And maybe, only maybe, I will consider running the Cleveland Marathon in three weeks.

The warm weather has finally arrived. The stress of training for Boston is behind me. These last two runs have been enjoyable. I was so focused on Boston, and fighting my way through the injuries, and the awful Cleveland winter, I had forgotent how pleasant a run can be. I've been reading about a phenomena called 'Post Marathon Depression', which apparently affect many runners. I think I am on a 'Post Marathon High', because everything is wonderful.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On the road to recovery

Too bad none of you were around to see me when I started my run yesterday; you missed a good laugh. I was so stiff and tight, I looked like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. The first three miles were not graceful, but after that I began to loosen-up. It was very encouraging for two reasons. First, my problem areas, left knee and right Achilles, were not painful. Further, I actually pushed the pace up for the last two miles. With that little run successfully done, I am confident that I can proceed with my recovery.

Elizabeth sent a link to some of her photos, and I have included one of them below. This was taken on Commonwealth Avenue at Glocester, the afternoon after the race. In front is Elizabeth. Middle row left to right is: Steve, Dawn, Dave, Janet, Wayne, and Kam. In the back is: Mark, me, and Tim.

As I said yesterday, I have been overwhelmed with all of the support. I forgot to mention that when I returned home on Tuesday, there was a huge fruit basket which my parents had sent. I got another surprise yesterday. My coworkers had a little get together to congratulate me...I don't deserve all of this. They ordered a cake in the same colors as the ribbon and medal, and put my finishing time on it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Been there..done that..still hurts

Before proceeding with my thoughts on the race itself, I want to thank everyone for the incredible amount of support and encouragement. I am overwhelmed by it all. Thanks to you Sue, for understanding and accepting that I simply have to do these things, and for giving me your unquestioning support. To all of my friends and family, all the folks at Kichler, thanks for your words of encouragement, thanks for asking how I am doing, thanks for caring. And to the members of the Southeast Runners Club, huge thanks for all you have done for me. You know how I feel, because I have told you. This weekend in Boston was fantastic.

The Race
I've not experienced anything comparable to Boston. Here is a noteworthy observation...THE ROUTE IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT LOOKS ON PAPER. (Yes, I was shouting that.) The early downhills work your quads over, but at that point in the race, you are not conscious of it. That'll come later. I had planned to run the first half faster, taking advantage of the downhills, and putting some time in the bank in case my knee and/or Achilles went bad through the hills. After the first few miles, I was two minutes off my planned pace, due entirely to the tightly packed field of runners. Eventually, I had a little elbow room and I made up that lost time fast, too fast it turns out. By the half, I was four minutes ahead of my planned time for the half, at a pace that would have had me 8 minutes ahead of my projected finish. Warning alarms and flashing light should have been going off in my head, but instead, I though, "Hmmm...I am feeling pretty goo, maybe I'll back off, but only a bit." And I did, but not nearly enough, and not nearly soon enough. I felt strong through the Newton Hills and Heartbreak. At the top of Heartbreak, I knew the worst of the uphills were behind me, and I thought I could open it up and finish strong on the remaining downhill and flat roads. (As my buddy Wayne said, 'After Heartbreak, Boston is very runnable.') My legs apparently didn't care what Wayne said.

At 21 miles, my quads felt like someone had been playing 'Whack-a-Thigh', beating them with a mallet for the last two and half hours. Based on the burning pain in my right Achilles, I was sure it was actually on fire, but I didn't have the energy take a look. I did grab a cup of water and throw it over my shoulder, trying to dowse the flames. My left left knee was throbbing, but not every second. Thankfully, with every footfall, a stabbing pain momentarily replaced the throbbing, so that was nice.

My strategy was to concentrated on trying to maintain my form, keep my head up and my back straight, and not fall into the 'marathon shuffle of shame'. Over the last three miles, I did a precarious balancing act, running as hard as I could, knowing I was on the edge of a crash and burn. I had to find the fastest pace I could keep that would not send me over the edge. I felt the twinges indicative of the onset of cramps, but managed to avoid them. (A lesson learned from my Columbus Marathon, where the cramps got me in the last four miles.) There were many runners down, some sitting or laying by the side of the road, with medical crews helping them. There were even more walking with hands on hips, heads hanging. I narrowed my focus, looks forward, and tried not to think about them. As I approached Mass Ave., I saw a runner collapsed into a fetal position at the curb, and the medics trying to cross the street with a stretcher. Imaging how seeing that scene could play with your head when you are desperately trying to keep your legs under you after twenty-five miles. Then, as I approached Commonwealth and Hereford, I spotted Sue in the throng just before the turn, and I knew then that I had the race in my grasp. I gave her a kiss, continued running, turned onto Boyleston, saw the finish about 400 yards away, and would not let my legs stop until I reached it.

The Crowds
We've all heard the stories of the great crowd support along this course, but I could not have conceived of this. The entire 26.2 miles had supporters cheering and clapping. Every mile of it. And as we approached the cities and town, the crowds grew bigger and louder. Ashland, Farmingham, Natick, Wellesley (with the Scream Tunnel of thousands of Wellesley College girls), Newton, and into Boston, where the streets were lined deep with cheering, shouting, clapping, supporters. I was wearing my SERC team singlet, with the word 'Cleveland' prominently across the chest, so I heard frequent shouts like, 'Come on Cleveland!', 'Kick it now, Cleveland!', Cleveland, looking great!' When I finally turned onto Boyleston, the sound was unreal. I felt twinges in my legs telling me cramps were trying to tie my muscles into knots, but I swore I would not stop. I had to run strong through that last 400 yards. I had to hold my head up, keep my form, and cross that finish line.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Day before the race

Just a short update today. All of the SERC runners met up and watched the Womens' Olympic Qualification Marathon this morning, and it was quite a race. Magdalena Lewy Boulet took the lead from the start, and amazingly was more than 2 and a half minutes ahead of the next runners by the nine mile mark. We were all speculating about the likelihood of her burning out before the finish, but she continued to hold the lead until Deanna Kastor passed her within 3 minutes of the finish. Deanna finsihed with at 2:29:35, and Lewy Boulet was about 40 seconds behind her. The third woman to qualify was Blake Russel.
After the race, we went back to Tim McGintey's brother's apartment at Glocester and Commenwealth Ave., and started preparing dinner, or at least some of us did. The rest lounged around for a while and others went off to walk the Expo again.
I'm signing off now so I can get my stuff ready for tomorrow. I have a checklist of things to do to prepare, starting with attaching my bib to my shirt. Next time I write will be after the race. THANKS to everyone for the tremendous support. Now, let's get this race started.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Great Day in Boston

Sue and I flew into Boston today, arriving at Logan a bit after 9:00 AM, took the trains (Blue to Green) and got to our quaint, boutique hotel by 10:30 AM.
We checked in, dropped our bags, and walked to the Expo to pick up my chip, bib, etc. The place was incredibly busy, but great fun. I bought a 2008 Boston Marathon jacket and a tech shirt (featured in a photo to follow.) We noshed on the various free samples of different power bars, snack foods, sports drinks, etc. I went to the Nike exhibit where I took advantage of the free stride analysis. Surprisingly, I had always thought I was a strictly neutral runner, but the video clearly revealed a clear pronation, not excessive but definitely evident. They recommended appropriate shoes, but they were not offering any deals, so I didn't buy them. About a half-hour later, we found a vendor selling discounted shoes, and I found the exact shoe the Nike analysis had recommended, for $40, less than half the price at the Nike shop.

After we finished at the Expo, we stopped for a beer and split a turkey sandwich at an Irish pub on Boyleston. We eventually made it back to to our place, and after unpacking and looking over all the stuff in the goody bag, I went for a very short (4 mile) run. I cruised by the Phoenix Landing, just to be verify where it is located. We're going there tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM to watch Arsenal v Reading. When I got back, Sue and I went for a walk over the Mass Ave bridge to Cambridge. Note the tres chic Boston Marathon shirt.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feeling Better Every Day

I went to the track yesterday evening, still not ready for speed work but at least to run on a softer surface and see some of the SERCers before we meet in Boston. I did a slow 6.5 miles. Thanks to E-speed for keeping the conversation going so I wouldn't think about the various pains. This morning, I feel good. The knee still clicks, but the pain and swelling are really about gone. I am excited about getting to Boston, seeing the town all done-up for the race, doing the Expo on Saturday, seeing the Womens Olympic qualifier on Sunday, ...oh, and there's that race we are running on Monday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

SERC in the News

There was an article in Cleveland Plain Dealer this morning, "Group Support is a Good Change of Runner's Pace", which included some positive mentions of Cleveland Southeast Runners' Club, and also included some of my comments on the benefits of running with SERC. The reporter, Zach Lewis, is trying for a Boston Qualifier in Cleveland in May, and has been writing a series of articles on his training. He will be running with our group one of these weeks, and has invited other marathon aspirants to come out for one of our runs as well. Unfortunately, he mistakenly stated that we meet at Solon Square on Saturdays; it should have said 'Sundays'. I hope we don't have a bunch of cold, angry runners standing in the parking lot on Saturday, waiting for someone from SERC to show-up.

Big Congratulations to Mark Godale (7:36:31 4th place) and Connie Gardner (8:52:07 2nd place) for their great runs at the USATF 100k Championship in Madison this past Saturday. Awesome accomplishments considering the extremely competitive field.

I am feeling a bit better every day, and plan to use every bit of the next six days to get as healthy as possible. I gave try tot a knee brace (thanks for the recommendation Kam), but I could not get used to it. Even though it was very light weight, it still imbalanced my stride and restricted my knee flex. I decided to forgo the brace . Maybe I'll reconsider after Boston.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

No Run = No Fun

Doctor Joy(less) said no running, but I did try a little run on Friday. I was duly scolded by several of you about that, so I promised I would be good this weekend. It wasn't easy, but I followed the letter of the law. I was so careful, I called the Doc for permission before running a bath.

Thanks to all who e-mailed or comment on my blog to send your support and encouragement. I am feeling better about the situation now. And not just because of the kind words. The swelling is down, the clicking is definitely less noticeable, and there is virtually no pain. To make me feel even better, we got our SERC singlets today. They look so cool, I know they must have magical healing and speed powers.

I will try a run tomorrow, probably a five or six miles, and if all goes well, I'll know that I am going to be OK for that race in Massachusetts.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sometimes Doctor's Orders Are Only Suggestions

I know…I know… two days ago the doctor told me no running for at least a week. And that was my plan. This morning, I was going to do 45 minutes on the elliptical machine at work. I got to work, changed clothes, and was heading up the stairs to the workout room when I stopped. I changed my mind and decided to go out for a run. It not that I want to jeopardize Boston, it is because I respect Boston, and I don't want to go into that race badly unprepared. I need to run. If I push me knee over the edge and cannot do the marathon, then I'll accept that as a risk I chose to take. But if I can run, for at least one of my two taper weeks, I might regain some of what I worked so hard to build. I'd rather take that chance.

I did six miles, averaging 8:14 . Not much of a pace overall, but I started very cautiously, very slowly. No problems in the first mile. I expected after nearly a week without running that my Achilles would be much better, but it started complaining early in mile 2. At least my knee did not seem to get any worse as I ran. Once I developed a bit of confidence that the knee was holding up, I picked up the pace. The last two miles were in the 7:20 range, nothing to brag about, but in the marathon pace zone. I’ve been alternating ice on my knee and Achilles since returning. I’d have to say that if I can keep the pain in this range, I will keep running.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Come on Knee...Bend but Don't Break

After three days of hobbling around without bending my right knee, I contacted Dr. Susan Joy (with a name like that, I couldn’t not got to her), an Orthopedist at the Cleveland Clinic. After reviewing the x-rays and completing her examination, she told me the following.
  • Both knees are showing wear, and actually the left knee looks slightly worse than the right. (So I guess I should be happy that the left doesn’t hurt, right?)
  • There is no indication of a meniscus tear, but initial, minor tears are not necessarily visible on x-rays.
  • Keep icing the knee to bring down the swelling.(She offered to prescribe an anti-inflammatory, but…well…you know my aversion to drugs.)
  • Do not run for a week. (I have had no taper. I have gone from peak training miles to full stop.)
  • Low-impact aerobic work is acceptable (an elliptical machine would be OK).
  • If there is no increase in the pain, swelling, and clicking by race day, I am clear to run Boston.
  • Have plenty of ice ready for after the race, and make an appointment for a return to the clinic. I will need it.
All of that said, I am going to remain positive. I will run Boston this year. As a bonus, I already have a new goal for next year. Be prepared and healthy for Boston, and run it faster.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Right knee is wrong. Been walking without bending it for two days. Keeping it iced and wrapped. When I do bend it, it feels like things are out of place. Not even a remote possibility of running, as I am finding difficult to walk around the office.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Two Weeks to Go: Tapir (sp) Time

Here is my mascot for the next two weeks, Tapie the Tapir.
The tapir (pronounce as "taper") is a large browsing mammal, roughly pig-like in shape, with a short, prehensile snout. Tapirs inhabit jungle and forest regions of South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia.

15 days until Boston, and the last of the long training runs is done. I did an uninspired 19 miles today, gimping into home with a sore left knee and right Achilles. The plan calls for a gradual reduction in miles over the next two weeks. I hope the reduced workload will allow my legs a chance to recover before the race. I don't expect to be magically healed by running fewer miles, but I'll take whatever I can get.

I bought the Endurox R4 recovery drink per Wayne's recommendation. It has a 4:1 ratio of carbo-hydrate and protein. I bought the flavor which they call 'Tangy Orange' but would be more accurately named, 'Tangy Orange Mixed in a Blender with Pork Pork Fat'. I like it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

I ran an easy five miles on Friday, trying to minimize the complaints from various parts of my body. Woke up Saturday still not sure I was up to the Peninsula run, but decided to give it a go. It turned out to be a good decision. A big group made it on a beautiful morning, with sunshine and temperatures in the mid-thirties at the start.

The mud and muck were everywhere, and keeping you shoes from being sucked off your feet was one of the primary tasks of the day. We ran a good 12 miles in funky conditions (see the satellite image of our route.) The right Achilles and left knee both made their objections known, but they were overruled. I actually ran ahead of the group and sprinted up a good, steep hill one point, probably not the prudent thing to do but it seemed right at the time. Interesting note, I actually weighed more after the run than before, even though I had nothing to eat or drink. It might have had something to do with the five pounds of mud I was carrying on my legs and feet by the end of the run.

After the run, Wayne recommended a recovery drink called Endurox. It available at GNC, so I'll stop by and pick some up.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Up and Downs of Boston Preparation

Tuesday, I decided at the last minute to go to the track after work. The weather took a nasty downward turn, getting very cold and very windy. I met Barb and Elizabeth there, and we went for a two and half mile warm up around the neighborhood. I was hoping that would help me loosen up, but it did not. When we returned to the track, my Achilles was barking and I decided not to try the 3x1600 at 6:00/mi pace that I had planned. I was afraid that trying to run hard in those conditions could exacerbate my leg problems. I ended doing five easy miles...not exactly a Boston-worthy workout. I suck, and I will be an embarrassment at Boston. The BAA will expunge my name from the records. They will issue a public apology for allowing someone who sucks as much as me to participate in the race.

Turn the page. New day.

Wednesday, I ran home from work, as I have done for the last three Wednesdays. Further, as punishment for not doing my speed work yesterday, I decided that I needed to maintain my target marathon pace, no matter how much my Achilles complained. It was hurting, but I have learned to redirect my attention so it is not on my mind...much. I ended up with 10.5 miles, with an average pace of 7:21. Not bad considering the hilliness (1269 ft/ascent - 1015 ft/descent). I am most pleased with the steadiness of my pace despite the hills. See the graph below and note the elevation changes in green and my pace in blue. (The spikes are due to stops at intersections.)