Saturday, May 16, 2015

The best male running bloggers

I never understood why the world of fitness and running blogging is so heavily dominated by women.  There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but as a man, it sometimes makes it hard to relate to the content.

So when I look for running blogs to read, I like to find people I can relate to.  If it's someone with a full-time job, maybe a dad, and who is just sharing his running journey with the rest of us, then I want to read his blog.  I love being inspired by others' journeys, especially if they face similar struggles to mine.

That said, I thought I would share my favorite running blogs from the male end of the spectrum.  Each of these bloggers is inspiring in his own way, so read on and get inspired!

Name: Bryon Pumphrey
From: Indiana

First there's my bro out in Indiana, Bryon Pumphrey.  I've written about him before and met him for a hot second in the middle of the Boston Marathon, of all places.

He's a die-hard Pacers fan who lost 40 lbs. through running and hopefully doesn't mind me always stealing pictures from his blog.  He's a down-to-earth guy who doesn't blog for the fame or the glory but to keep himself accountable and to share his journey.  He's planning to run a sub 3:00 marathon this fall, so I'm definitely looking forward to following his progress, especially as I may attempt the same exact goal in Philly.

Name: Ty Godwin
From: Colorado

Then there's Ty Godwin.  He is an average guy with two kids who writes passionately about - you guessed it - the Boston Marathon.  He completed it this year for the 5th time in a row, which was no small feat since he sustained some pretty serious injuries in a bike crash at a triathlon last summer.  His grit and determination are amazing.

I also love his style of writing - there's the feelgoodery you would expect from someone chasing such lofty goals but with enough acerbic wit to keep it interesting.  He doesn't shy away from risqué material - he covered the Michael Rossi story well before I did, and much more brilliantly.  His next project is as a presenter at the Fitbloggin15 Conference in Denver.

Name: Cory Reese
From: Utah

I'm sure nearly everyone who comments on Cory's blog mentions the photos.  Come for the photos, stay for the content.  While Cory takes his share of selfies (really, what blogger doesn't), and some beautiful shots of the Utah landscape, his specialty seems to be his epic jumping shots.  Not the goofy white girls on the beach jumping shots, but ones out in the desert where he seems to be soaring through the shot.  The energy and exuberance in these photos reaches out and shakes you and yells at you to go running yourself.

Cory is a social worker and father of three who still finds time to run ultras - lots of ultras.  A 50 miler here, a 72 hour race there, and enough 100 milers - as noted in his "About Me" page - to listen to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" up to 623 times on repeat.  If you ever have any questions about ultras, this is your man.  In the meantime, the goofy positivity oozing from each post will keep you coming back.

Name: Brad Mason
From: Florida

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Brad who had found my blog through YouTube.  He'd been blogging for awhile, though anonymously, and wanted to lift the veil of anonymity to increase his accountability.  Looking at the above photo, I can't believe he drew inspiration from me.  He was kind enough to highlight my blog on his, and I wanted to do the same.

Brad is a father of three and has an insane work schedule that sometimes requires 60-90 hour weeks throughout the year.  His athletic journey has been long and varied and not without its struggles, and through it all he has set the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  His plan is to run it in 2017, so stop by his blog and follow along!

Name: Jake Krong
From: Utah

Wait, you mean you wanted more pictures from Utah?  Well then read Jake Krong's blog.  His blog highlights both his and his girlfriend Andrea's outdoor adventures living near the Wasatch Range.  They are both passionate skiers and fill the blog with beautiful shots of the pristine snow-capped mountains in the winter.

But wait, that's not all! Jake is also a sub-elite runner with the goal of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.  With a marathon PR of 2:20, he has a lot of excellent running advice and general observations from the front of the pack.  He is also sponsored by Saucony and shares a lot of great information about them.  I love his excellent race analyses from someone with a lot of talent and experience.

Eric Rayvid
From: New York City

In his thirties, Eric was overweight, smoked, had high cholesterol; basically all the hallmarks of an unhealthy lifestyle.  Now in his forties, he is an accomplished endurance athlete and hangs out with people like Kara Goucher and Mary Wittenberg.    Most recently, he became a father last fall with the birth of his first son.

Through his blog, he is essentially an ambassador of the NYC racing scene.  He constantly brings his GoPro to the races and posts videos and great action shots afterwards.  The blog also provides great reviews on a lot of different shoes and other endurance products.

Name: Henrik Wist
From: Munich, Germany

Fellow father and runner Henrik has been a longtime reader of the blog, and we came awfully close to actually meeting when I showed up in his hometown last month with ten of my students in tow.  Sadly, it didn't work out, but we'll always have the internet, Henrik.

As the name of his blog suggests, Henrik is into biking and coding as well as running, and his blog is a sprinkling of his different interests.  He most recently ran a brilliant debut marathon in Hamburg in a blistering time of 3:17:38... now if we could get him to write a race report!

Names: Tom and Joe
Blogs: Unknown
From: Florida

Lastly, a shout out to Tom and Joe down in Florida.  They don't have blogs to my knowledge, but they frequently leave me comments and I appreciate it like crazy.

I think the theme here, besides being all dudes, is that everyone mentioned here is just an average guy doing extraordinary things with his one chance at life.  You don't need to be blessed with money or looks or anything else to accomplish great things.  You just have to be willing to put in the hard work.

Is there an amazing male running blogger that I missed?  Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Race to Neverland 5k Race Report

First off, happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers out there.  Today is a special one for us because it's Stevie's first Mother's Day as a mom.

Stevie decided a few months ago that she wanted to celebrate the occasion at a local 5k she'd found online.  Looks like I picked the right one, folks.  She's been doing the 21 Day Fix Program through Beach Body and loving it, so she wanted to get back into running, which she hasn't really done since before getting pregnant.  So we brought Neale and the jogging stroller over to Cherry Hill this morning for the First Annual Race to Neverland 5k.

Unfortunately it was the most poorly organized race I've ever done.

Look, I hate to bash a local 5k, given that they are usually charity events (this one benefitted two young girls who had lost their mother a few years ago), so let's just call this constructive criticism and hope next year's event goes a little better.

There were only about 50 people in the race, mostly moms and their kids of varying ages, along with a few ringers from local running clubs (some of whom I recognized from the South Jersey running circuit).

Stevie had already registered in advance, but I registered when we got there.  I was surprised that race-day registration was $35.  There was no music or fanfare of any kind, there were no aid stations on the course, and the only post race refreshments were bottles of water.  I don't mind a no frills race, but not when the price is that high.

9am came and we were told the police had not arrived and they needed 10 more minutes to finish getting ready.  The only bathroom available was a single portapotty a quarter mile away next to a baseball field, so 5 of us walked out there.  On our way back across the field, we heard a siren go off and saw they had started the race without us.  We swore it hadn't yet been 10 minutes, but even if it had, it hadn't occured to them to look across the field to see if anyone was using the bathroom and to wait for us.

So we trotted over to the starting mat so we could register our chips, but they were already dismantling it.  We tried to cross over it but were told rather brusquely, "you need to start now."  There was no explanation as to whether or not we would be timed.  So we just started running.

I pushed Neale in the stroller, Stevie ran beside me, and Stevie's friend Heather pushed her daughter in a stroller.  The police officer had showed up and was stopping traffic for us to cross the street.  The majority of the course was in a beautiful residential neighborhood, and I had fun with the novelty of running with a stroller and taking selfies, neither of which I ever do while racing.

We eventually came back to the same intersection with the police officer and a course marshall and were waved across the street back to the high school where we started.  As we approached the finish line, Heather's iPhone only read 2 miles.  At the finish line we explained that the course wasn't marked and the course marshall had sent us this way, but the same man from the starting line told us in the same tone as before, "no one else had a problem."  Ok, so we're either lying or you're calling us stupid.  Great.

We headed back onto the course so we could run the proper length and finished around 34 minutes, a PR for Stevie.

The disorganization and the rude tone of the man in charge left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but when all was said and done we still did a proper 5k distance, which was Neale's first race in the stroller and Stevie's and my first race running together the whole way.

I'd brought along a cooler with champagne, orange juice and glasses, and after running we all relaxed on the grass drinking mimosas.

Once again, happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The strange case of Mr. Michael Rossi

Meet Mike Rossi:

Radio DJ, Philly-area runner, and recent viral sensation.

As seen in the picture above, Mr. Rossi recently ran the Boston Marathon.  He and his wife had taken his two elementary-aged children out of school to attend the weekend festivities, and when he returned home, he received the following letter from his children's principal:

This letter did not sit well with Mr. Rossi, who then published the following open-letter response on Facebook:

His letter definitely struck a nerve with the American populace, because it quickly made the rounds of social media and was picked up by the mainstream media.  Mr. Rossi was subsequently interviewed by national newspapers and tv programs alike.

People praised him for standing up to the school, which in turn sparked a conversation on parenting and the state of public schools in America.  Mr. Rossi became an instant folk hero with many dubbing him "Dad of the Year."

Only problem is, while Mr. Rossi was basking in the media attention, the principal who had sent the original letter started to receive attention of a different kind.  She received hundreds of threatening e-mails and middle-of-the-night prank calls from people who chose to focus on a simple form letter rather than her lifelong dedication to children and education.

Her son eventually came to her defense, writing an impassioned letter to stop the madness. To his credit, Mr. Rossi also called for a cease fire regarding the principal.

This all would have died down shortly thereafter were it not for the passionate crew of running nerds over at  Someone looked into the race he ran to qualify for Boston - a 3:11 performance at the Via Marathon in Lehigh, PA - and raised the suspicion that he had likely cheated.

The accusation stems from two main pieces of evidence:
  1. Professional photographers were stationed at several points along the course, yet Rossi appears in only the finish line photos.
  2. None of his other race results of varying distance support his ability to hold a 7:17 pace over 26.2 miles.
In addition, the Via Marathon only employs timing mats at the start and finish, meaning he could have exited the course and reentered down the line without anyone knowing.  Mr. Rossi's reaction upon running such an outlier race and qualifying for Boston for the first time also seems curious.  Normally one to splash his accomplishments everywhere online, he was almost silent after his big accomplishment.

Mr. Rossi has since shut down or made private all of his social media accounts, and refuses to provide any evidence that he ran an honest race that day in Lehigh.  The race director has called on the USATF to assist in a full investigation in the matter, which could result in his disqualification from both the Via Marathon and the Boston Marathon, and a lifetime ban from both.

The turns this story has taken have been fascinating, and it raises numerous questions about our sport: Why do some people cheat?  How do they cheat, and how can this be prevented in the future?  If the person cheating is some Joe Schmo who isn't winning awards, does it really matter?  Is such a thorough investigation and punishment necessary?

While I don't think the evidence is outright conclusive, I do think there is a strong probability that he cheated, and that makes me sad.  It is simply beyond me how anyone could cheat, especially when there is no money involved.  When I didn't get into Boston the first time, there is no way I would have cheated to get in.  Instead, it only made me want to train harder and officially make it in.  I never could have lived with myself if I ran the Boston Marathon without having earned it.

It seems ironic that Mr. Rossi purposefully sought out the spotlight in dealing with his children's principal, and that same spotlight brought him into this current mess.  It is my sincere hope that Mr. Rossi gets what he deserves, be that redemption and an apology from his accusers, or the aforementioned disqualification and lifetime ban.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A walk in the park

The family and I drove out to Wissahickon Valley Park today, an amazing park about 45 minutes away and within the Philadelphia city limits.

It was the same park where Stevie and I went on a date back in 2011, before we were even technically dating.

We spent about two hours walking the trails and taking in the scenery while Neale observed the world from his perch on Stevie's back.

We hope to lead by example and model a healthy and active lifestyle for Neale, so it's great to get out and explore the world with him from an early age.  As much as I love the age he's at right now, I can't help but look forward to all of the adventures that await us.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April mileage

January: 197
February: 231
March: 281

April: 121.2

April saw a significant decrease in mileage due to tapering for and recovering from the Boston Marathon towards the middle of the month.

I'm still streaking and I'm still pushing along in my quest to hit 2,015 miles this year.  I'm very optimistic that it will happen.

I'd like to up the mileage again in May in preparation for aa few races I'm signed up for in June.  Nothing major on the horizon; just a half and a few shorter distances.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The cost of Boston

I don't like to spend money.  I am destined to be that stereotypical cheap dad who never likes to open his wallet for anything, for whom "free" is the greatest word in the English language, whose wardrobe hasn't been updated since the Clinton Administration.  I can live with this.

But in all seriousness, as a single-income family (and that income from a public high school teacher's salary), it's important to think frugally and not buy into the culture of consumerism and materialism that is so prevalent in this country.  So the thought of bringing my family of three to the Boston Marathon gives me genuine heart palpitations.

Everyone talks about the hard work associated with Boston, the glory and the guts, the rewards and the esteem.  But no one ever talks about the money.  So here goes.

  • Cost of entry: $175, paid back in September during registration.
  • We drove from South Jersey there and back, leaving on Saturday and returning on Tuesday, so estimated cost of gas and tolls: $150.
  • Estimated cost for use of public transport/parking throughout the weekend: $30.
  • We stayed with two different friends in the city and brought each a bottle of wine: $30.
  • We packed food for the trip and ate some meals with our friends, so we ended up eating out very little during the weekend.  Estimated cost of eating out: $50.
  • I ended up not buying the official race jacket because I figured the tech shirt, race medal, poster, bib, and numerous pictures from the weekend would be enough.  I did buy the official race photo package, though. $80.
  • I also bought Meb's book at the expo: $15.

Total estimated cost for the weekend for a family of three: $530.

If I start saving now, maybe I can do the weekend properly at my next Boston Marathon.  Until then, if you need to find me, I'll be the guy in the Umbros shorts and a coed naked volleyball shirt.

Monday, April 27, 2015

2 year anniversary

April 27, 2013

The things I love most in this world, in no particular order:
  1. Beer.
  2. The outdoors.
  3. Traveling.
  4. German.
  5. Movies.
  6. Neale.
  7. Stevie.
  8. Family.
  9. Running.
  10. The feeling I used to get in the 90's when I bought a CD and discovered a secret song at the end. It was always after I'd had the disc for a bit and found my favorite songs to put on repeat, but occasionally I let it play all the way through.  Invariably, my attention would wane until the disc ended and I didn't even notice the silence, only to be jarred a minute or so later by more music.  The secret song was always short in length, but quirky, experimental, and done for the love of music and the fans, like a present from the band for our love and devotion.  I always loved the secret song because it was usually something I had to discover on my own, like I was the only person to have ever discovered it, and understood it in a way no one else could.

Two years ago I brought together many of the things on this list by marrying Stevie in an outdoor ceremony at Camp Ockanickon.  It remains, in a lifetime of questionable decisions, one of the best I've ever made.

Happy anniversary, Stevie.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Find your Boston

When I returned to school last Wednesday, I showed each of my classes a few pictures from the race along with my medal, and told them a little about how it went.  I finished by explaining that I didn't expect all of them to want to run the Boston Marathon someday, or any marathon for that matter.  But I did encourage all of them to find their own version of Boston.

I am not a natural born distance runner.  Making it to the Boston Marathon was not a given for me, and I often doubted if I ever would.  But I set the goal and I did everything within my power to achieve it, and I finally did.  The sense of accomplishment, I need not tell you again (but ok, once more), has been profound.

I encouraged my students, and I encourage you, dear reader, to find your own Boston.  Find something that might take years to accomplish.  Something you're not even sure if you're capable of.  Something you're passionate about.  Something that inspires you to be a better person (if somewhat obsessive).  Something that will create amazing memories.

Then do it.

And don't forget to tell me about it.  I love being inspired by others' journeys.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 Boston Marathon reflections

In the 5 days that have passed since completing my first Boston Marathon, the question I've gotten the most (after "what place did you come in?") was "are you happy with your time?" And the answer?  It's complicated.

I told myself going into the race that I would be happy with anything under 3:30.  I had to hustle down the homestretch on Boylston in order to make this goal, but I made it.

But time isn't the only arbiter of success when it comes to racing.  Like I wrote last fall, you don't have to run a PR to feel successful.

I was talking with Stevie the other night when she asked me a similar question: how did I feel about Boston now that I'd completed it and had time to reflect on it?

It was hard to put into words.  Towards the end, I felt beat down by the marathon.  Weak.

Stevie: But isn't that how you feel with every marathon?

Well, yes and no.  I certainly feel beat down physically at the end of every marathon, but it's usually me delivering the beatdown, not the marathon.  When I know I am pushing myself hard, I may feel tired and sore, but I feel anything but weak.  The exhaustion I feel fuels a sense of strength in me, which in turn drives me to push even harder.  Time doesn't always matter.  It's usually that feeling of personal power and strength that I'm after.

But it's easy to feel strong when things are going your way.  Being forced to confront the fact that I may not be as strong as I think I am is exactly why the marathon is so humbling, and why I love it.  So while I felt weak and demoralized in the final miles of Boston, I reveled in the humility provided.  Well, maybe not until afterwards.  But I made my time goal and despite that sense of weakness I felt, I have still come away with an awe and respect for Boston.

Does any of this make sense?  I told you it was complicated.

I did, of course, have a lot going against me, much of which I couldn't control.

  • The weather.  Probably the worst weather I've ever experienced in any race of any length.  20mph headwind, steady rain for over half the race, and 45 degrees.
  • Poor race day nutrition.  This was my own dumb fault as I forgot to bring my gels to Boston and again forgot to bring anything to the starting line with me.  I didn't take in any fuel other than Gatorade until mile 18.
  • Poor weather during training cycle.  I ran every mile of training outside in some awful conditions including plenty of temperatures in the teens and an awful lot of snow and ice.  This certainly made me feel badass, but the weather stopped me from doing much speed work.
  • Probably went out too fast in the first half, which everyone warns you not to do, but I swore I felt like I was holding back based on effort.
  • I'd picked up a nasty cough while in Germany with my students over spring break, and the cough hung on until the day of the marathon.  The day after?  Completely gone.  Naturally.
  • Lack of sleep.  My son is eight months old and still won't sleep through the night.  I have felt like a zombie since August, and while I got the miles in, the quality of those miles definitely suffered.  Again, I barely did any speed work.  Only a handful of tempo runs, and no track work like I normally do.

Overall, I'm proud of what I overcame, proud of the journey to Boston.  The overall experience was an incredible one, despite the tough physical and mental hardships towards the end.

And I keep returning to that finishing stretch on Boylston Street, but rather than describe it again, I'll let Vladimir Nabokov take us off:

"Listen - I want to run all my life, screaming at the top of my lungs.  Let all of life be an unfettered howl.  Like the crowd greeting the gladiator.
Don't stop to think, don't interrupt the scream, exhale, release life's rapture. Everything is blooming.  Everything is flying.  Everything is screaming, choking on its screams.  Laughter.  Running.  Let-down hair.  That is all there is to life."
From the short story "Gods" by Vladimir Nabakov 

Friday, April 24, 2015

2015 Boston Marathon recap

Get ready for the recap of your life.  Also, I plan to buy the official race photos and will edit this post to swap them in when I get the chance.

Quick stats:

  • First Boston Marathon
  • Qualified at 2013 Philly Marathon in 3:03:05
  • First half in 1:36
  • Finished in 3:29:36

For those in it to win it, here we go...

Ain't no time like go time

We were staying with my college friend Amy who lives just outside of Boston, so I needed to get up at 4:30am to walk to the busstop, catch a bus to the T, take the T to Boston Common, then take the BAA shuttle bus out to Athletes' Village.

6am at Boston Common

Adrenaline was pumping, but I still had to wait until 10am to actually start running.

Nike Pegasus: sunglasses not included

Athletes' Refugee Camp

Once I arrived at the Common, I checked a bag and headed for the nearest school bus.  The busride was about 40 minutes out to Hopkinton where the hype immediately started. Hopkinton Middle School is taken over by the BAA every year for the runners and deemed Athletes' Village.  I don't have any pictures because I don't run with my phone and so I left it in my gear bag back at the Common.  But let me paint you a picture.

Imagine thousands of runners all piled into two separate circus tents, trying to stay warm and dry with all manner of accoutrements, including trash bags, sleeping bags, and yoga mats. The runners are so packed together that it's nearly impossible to walk through the crowd. Hot tea, coffee, and other amenities are available on the periphery.  Outside of the tents are medical tents, information tents, and porta potties stretching off into the horizon with runners waiting patiently in line.  Music blasts and an announcer shrilly heralds each new arrival.  "Welcome to Athletes' Village!  You made it!"

I was cold while waiting around.  I'd brought some throwaway clothes, but clearly not enough, and I had nowhere to sit but the cold ground for two hours.

No seriously, it's now go time

At about 9:15 the announcer began calling my wave and corral, and we started walking en masse to the starting line, almost a full mile away.  The energy was intense; people were already cheering for us and we hadn't even started yet.

Volunteers checked our bibs multiple times to make sure we were going to the right corral, which I appreciated.  We stood there for a bit, I shed my throwaway sweatshirt, the national anthem was sung, and the race began.  Somewhere up ahead of me, Meb was already at the 1 mile mark, but I had yet to reach the starting line...

Miles 0 - 2: Runner's Nirvana

Just past the starting line, the landscape created a natural amphitheater where hundreds of people were sitting to watch, and all cheering wildly.  I started my watch and grinned, and the smile on my face would not budge for the first two miles of the race.  I high fived as many little kids as I could, I was struck by the thundering ACDC on the loudspeakers, I was swept along by the amazing crowd, and I thought, this is where runners must go when they die.

Miles 2 - 8: Reality Check

I had no idea how fast I was going because I hadn't brought my Garmin with me (intentionally), but each mile marker and a glance at my normal stopwatch told me I was doing about 7:30 miles.  I was trying to run by effort, and my body was telling me to take it easy because I had a lot of work ahead of me.  I stopped high fiving kids and just tried to focus on my running.

I was also aware of a slight pain in my left quad and was constantly monitoring it and hoping it wouldn't get worse.  This is a pain I've been dealing with for the last few weeks that I thought would be gone by now, but it has hung on all this time, never getting worse but never getting better.  Fortunately it did not become an issue later in the race.

Fueling was also an issue.  I stupidly left the gels I bought for the race in NJ, and forgot to bring my Clif Bloks to the starting line, so I was running the majority of the race on a banana and a luna bar that I'd eaten in the Athletes' Village.  I was desperately scanning the aid stations for gels, but would not find any until mile 18.

My dad had driven up from New Jersey the night before, spent the night with his brother, and took the train into Framingham to cheer for me there.  Unfortunately I missed his cheers and wouldn't see him until after I finished.

Miles 8 - 12: Someone build an ark

And then the rains came.  The rain started around mile 8 and continued steadily for almost the rest of the race.  Within a few miles I was completely soaked through to the skin.  There was a 20mph headwind throughout the race as well, and the temperature never went above 45 degrees.  April in New England - can't beat it.

I hung for a few miles with a U.S. Marine carrying an American flag, which was worth it to see the crowd's reaction.  Many, many chants of U-S-A! broke out.

Miles 12 - 20: Thank you Wellesley

By mile 12 I knew I was in trouble.  I didn't feel as strong and as confident as I wanted to, and I thought about how effortless the first 16 miles had felt in my last marathon compared to how they felt now.  I was much more fatigued than I wanted to be this early in the race, and was genuinely worried about how those last six miles were going to feel.

But those Wellesley girls.  Those Wellesley girls.  Let's take a break in this opus to acknowledge just how much they add to the allure of Boston.  For in what other race is one faced with a cheering section dubbed "The Scream Tunnel", where young coeds work themselves into a dionysian hysteria for the benefit of complete strangers?  In what other race is securing kisses from sweaty runners seen as a rite of passage?  Where else would high fiving the crowd lead to me being grabbed by one such coed and almost dragged over the railing?

I ask you!

I'll leave the shenanigans of the Scream Tunnel to the reader's imagination, but let's just say it was a needed boost when I was already dragging.

I hit the halfway point in 1:36, but started to slow down considerably after that.

Miles 20 - 25: Is that who I think it is?

Imagine running a race with 30,000 other people, and then imagine how you would feel if you accidentally ran into someone you knew at mile 20.  I've been following Bryon's blog for a few years now.  He's from Indiana, and we both qualified back in November 2013 and within 45 seconds of each other.  We ran together for about a mile and commiserated on how lousy we were feeling.  It was a welcome distraction running with someone, and he definitely took my mind off Heartbreak Hill, but pretty soon I knew his pace was too much for me, so I encouraged him to go on without me.

Me: Go on, man, finish strong!
Bryon: This is my strong!

Bryon gutted it out to a 3:24 finish.  Well done, Bryon, and good luck on your sub 3 attempt this fall.

The Newton Hills didn't bother me too much because I wasn't running as hard by then.  I never stopped running, though, and just powered up them with a cold, hard determination.

Once out of the hills I was doing 9 minute miles, watching the mile markers slowly tick by, wishing the race would be over, looking forward to Boylston Street and the feeling of being finished.  Finally I saw the symbol that told me I was near.

Mile 25 - Finish

The Citgo sign came into view and my eyes teared up a little.  I'd read about this point in the race many times, and to finally see it in person, knowing what it meant, was very emotional.

The streets widened, the buildings rose, the crowds thickened, and onward I trudged.

Right on Hereford.

Left on Boylston.

And four blocks later I was finished.

Now, I have had the privilege of experiencing many great things in my life, and I can honestly say those four blocks on Boylston rank among the best of my life's memories.  When I grow old and my muscles weaken and my joints creak, and my days of marathoning have long since ended, I will still hearken back to the deafening roar of Boylston Street and remember what it was like to touch greatness.

I just ran the Boston %@#!* Marathon

After crossing the line (3:29:36), I slowly made my way forward and collected items one at a time.  A bottle of water.  A poncho for warmth.  The medal.  My eyes teared up again when a volunteer and I made eye contact and I walked to her.  She put it around my neck and I must have stood there staring at it for a solid minute before continuing on.

I was staring at the culmination of over five years of hope and hard work.  The most intense training cycle of my life just to qualify.  Training through the most heinous winter just to prepare for this day. And suddenly it was all over.  It was a lot to process.

I had relied on adrenaline and emotion to carry me through the final miles, but after finishing the reality hit me.  I was soaking wet, it was 45 degrees and windy out, and now that I wasn't running anymore, my body temperature was sinking by the minute.  I was shivering and coughing uncontrollably, and had suddenly developed sharp pain in my groin.  On my way to the family meeting area, I had to stop several times to stretch.  Every time I stumbled and winced in pain, a volunteer swooped down on me and asked if I was ok or if I needed a wheelchair.

So much pain

The support crew

I met up with my dad, Stevie and Neale in the family meeting area, and they convinced me to visit the medical tent, though I wasn't sure what exactly they would do for me.  I went in and told them about my groin and just being cold, and they gave me a bed, a blanket and hot water and took down all of my information.  They took my temperature and found I was 95 degrees.  I sat there for about ten minutes warming up before I decided to leave.

I met Stevie and Neale back at the Common where I was finally able to change into dry clothes almost an hour after finishing.  I found out my dad had already had to leave because he needed to catch the train back to his car and start the drive home, so I didn't even get a picture with him.

Stevie and I took public transport back to Amy's apartment where we ate dinner and I drank beer all night, reveling in my accomplishment.

Let's wrap it up, shall we?

My sincere thanks go out to the Boston Marathon volunteers and the people of Massachussets in general for supporting us runners in that weather.  Yours are truly the hardiest of souls.

And it wouldn't be a proper marathon race recap if I didn't thank those who support me specifically.  Martina and Amy, thank you so much for letting us stay with you.  It was great to catch up with old friends.  Dad, Stevie, and Neale, thank you so much for coming with me on this journey, both the literal and the figurative.  Your support means more than you know.

I'll save full reflections and analysis for the next post as this is getting pretty long, but suffice it to say this was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I simply can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Boston Marathon Part I

Shipping up to Boston!

Stevie and I loaded up the car on Saturday morning and finally got on the road around 12:30. We hit some bad traffic around New York, naturally, but it was otherwise smooth sailing.  The excitement mounted once we started seeing signs for Boston.

We arrived at my high school friend Martina's house around 7:30.  I first met Martina when I spent a summer in Germany when we were 14.   She has since moved with her family from Munich to Boston and offered to let me stay with her when she found out I was doing the marathon.  Fun fact: Martina and I have the exact same birthday; both the day and the year.

Sunday morning saw a leisurely breakfast, followed by a leisurely Sunday stroll along the Charles River, and finally, the highlight for me, a trip to the expo.

The expo was absolutely overwhelming.  We had brought Neale along in the stroller and could barely navigate the crowds, so we eventually found an empty room where Stevie could breastfeed (sidenote: hey BAA, maybe start designating a room for mothers to breastfeed.  In one hour there, Stevie was joined by two other moms who were also looking for a place to nurse).  I continued on through the expo alone and got a few more pictures:

I then ventured a few blocks down Boylston to the finish line and got a few more pictures.

After the expo, we braved the streets and drove back to Martina's place where we packed up and headed to my college friend Amy's place.

Amy and Stevie had some wine after we put Neale to bed, and I of course just drank water. We ordered take out from a barbecue place and we all got pulled pork.  The rest of the night was dedicated to packing gear bags and laying out clothing and figuring out Boston's public transport system.  And a few more pictures:

I went to sleep around 9 o'clock and slept fitfully all night, then woke up at 4:30am to start making my way to the starting line.

Race recap coming soon...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Boston 2015 training recap

This is mostly for my own record-keeping for future marathons, and will be a little boring for the non-runner.

My training officially started on December 20th, exactly 4 months out from Boston.  Leading up to official training, I had been maintaining a run streak for over a year, and was running in the low single digits.  As for races, I completed one half marathon in October, and one 5k in November.

I had hoped to run a 100 mile week and build up to it gradually, practicing an ebb and flow of long runs throughout the training cycle.  Instead, I accepted that my body just couldn't handle it this time around and topped out at one 75 mile week, but kept mostly in the 60's.

I did my long runs on Sundays with rest days on Mondays (though I still ran a very slow mile on Mondays to keep up my run streak).

January was a very mild month.  All but one of my long runs were done in shorts.  My January 2015 mileage was triple what it had been in 2014.  I went into February feeling great about how training was going.  Then the weather shifted.

I ran in some challenging conditions this winter, to say the least.  I ran in 16 degree weather, in wind gusts, in a foot of snow, in falling snow, on ice, and everything else winter could throw at me.  Usually in the dark.  The winter followed us well into March, and I ran in my final snowstorm on the first day of spring.  Because I don't have access to a treadmill or indoor track, I ran every single mile outside.

While I built a solid base of miles, I didn't do nearly as much strength work or speed work as I would like.  I did some, but wasn't nearly as consistent with it as I could have been.

My nutrition was mostly solid, and I definitely dropped some weight, though I don't know how much because I still haven't weighed myself since the 2013 Philly Marathon.  I only know because my clothes have become looser.

Everything was going swimmingly, and I managed to make it to the taper in one piece.  Then I went to Germany with my students over spring break.  An action-packed schedule with little sleep and a completely altered diet (including plenty of beer) wreaked havoc on my training, just as I expected.  I managed two solid runs in Berlin, but once I got to Munich and picked up a nasty cough (which I'm still trying to shake), I was done for.  My taper ended up being a little more relaxed than I would have liked.

Sleep was another big challenge of this training cycle.  I'm very strict about my sleep and try to get a minimum of eight hours every night, but with a baby at home, that has been next to impossible since last August.  While it didn't affect the amount of miles, I feel it affected the quality, hence the lack of speed work.  Constantly running in winter weather didn't help with the quality, either.

I plan to run a simple one mile shakeout run tomorrow, which will be my final run of this training cycle.  All told, I will have run 830 miles.  My goal was not to PR this marathon, but to make it to the starting line feeling confident and healthy and just enjoy the atmosphere of Boston, and I do believe I will accomplish that.  While I am not at the top of my game like I was for Philly 2013, I am still ready to kick ass this Monday.

Friday, April 17, 2015

My road to the 2015 Boston Marathon

Every single person racing this Monday has a different story of how they made it to Boston. This is mine:

Let's go all the way back to the beginning...

I ran my first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon, in 2005 at the age of 24.  I didn't quite know what I was doing and it took me 4 hours and 29 minutes to finish, but I was ecstatic to finish.

As a newly christened marathoner, I was certainly aware of Boston and its prestige, but I just never bothered to dream of one day qualifying.  My next two marathons also took me well over four hours, so I honestly didn't think I was physically capable of it.

But then my 4th marathon happened.  Something must have clicked with my training that year, or I was finally coming to better understand the distance, because at the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon, I ran a 3:30, shattering my PR by 42 minutes.

I was seriously impressed with myself and wondered if a BQ might now be in the cards.  Even if I originally thought a BQ was a 3:20.

I decided that if I went all in, I would stand a chance at taking another 20 minutes off of my PR and run my first BQ.

The following summer, I started my training regimen and put my heart and soul into it.  I trained harder and smarter than I ever had before, and it all paid off.  I needed to run 3:10:59 or faster, and I ended up finishing in 3:09:45.  I had never been more proud of myself than in the moment I crossed the finish line that year.

I also made a YouTube video documenting my training that year.  You can watch the video here.

Unfortunately, my timing was pretty lousy.  2010 was the same year that registration for Boston sold out in 8 hours.  Three months after I qualified, the BAA changed the registration rules to the current system of allowing the fastest qualifiers to register first.  Even though I qualified fair and square under the rules in place at the time of my marathon, I was subject to the new rules put in place after I qualified.  When registration rolled around in September, it was official: I did not make the cut.  I was heartbroken.

I let myself sulk for a little, but I ultimately knew what I had to do.  I just had to suck it up and train all over again.  It took a few years and a few false starts, but I finally made a concerted effort again in 2013.  Everything had changed now, though.  I was now 3 years older, married with a full-time job, and the qualification time was now 3:05 flat.  I once again went into the Philadelphia Marathon that year with more doubt than I care to admit, but once again prevailed with my current PR of 3:03:05.

I then had to wait nearly a year for registration to come around, all the while wondering if BQ-1:55 would be enough.  Turns out it was - but by less than a minute.  But no matter.  I was finally in.

But all that hard work only earned me... more hard work.  Over the past four months, I've run roughly 800 miles.  Every single one of those miles was run outdoors, many in some really tough conditions.

The dream was officially born in 2009, and now here we are over 5 years later, and I'm finally on my way to Boston.  We're leaving for Boston tomorrow, and on Monday the dream finally comes true.

If you've followed me for any or all of this journey, thank you.  This one's for you.
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